The Work I’m Doing in Panama

Although this is an amazing trip and a once in a lifetime cultural experience, it is an internship, and I’m here to work (among other things, of course)! My position is interesting as well, because I’m doing my internship with the Global Experience Office as a part of my last and final course in my Project Management Program at Centennial. So my entire professional performance here in Panama will be translated into a (hopefully very good) mark back in Canada.

I am working with Centennial College’s Panama Recruitment Office, and my job is to essentially help the office run better. It’s a new office with only two employees, but they’re recruiting dozens and dozens of students for English language training programs and degree programs at Centennial College all through the year. Both high school and post-secondary students come through the office here, looking for advice on programs, information about the college, and help with the difficult and complex process of completing all of the necessary paperwork required in order to go to Centennial without a hitch. It’s both a highly individualized process that is meant to reach as many prospective students as physically possible. And Panama is brimming with students of all ages wanting to further their education, learn English, and come to Canada! The office here also works with many Panamanian institutions in order to reach more prospective students and to facilitate their travel to Centennial College.

At the start of any employment-related class I’ve had, the professor has always said “don’t go in there and try to change things around”…but that’s exactly what I get to do! Well, I make suggestions at least; and I’ll be establishing more formalized processes in the office in order to standardize the work as much as possible, in order to make the lives of my coworkers here in Panama (and any new prospective hires as the office grows) easier.

I have learned that Spanish is definitely the dominant language here in Panama. Very few people speak any English at all. This has proved daunting for me, as I sit in the office trying to muddle through a conversation in Spanish! I took two years of Spanish in University and completed enough credits to Minor in the language, however after three years of no use, I’ve forgotten most of it. I’m spending much of my first week observing the work done here and interacting with some of the students who have questions about Canada ( The question I get most is “Is it really really cold there?”). Conversation is a muddled mixture of my bad Spanish and broken English, but I love it!

I’m taking a lot of time to learn and study the language. Television here has some great English channels, but I try my hardest to follow along on the Spanish channels instead. It’s coming back to me…but very very slowly. Subtitles and sign language are helping. So is the Google Translate App on my phone.

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