My Purpose in Panama

Now that I have settled into my life here a bit and into my internship, I can tell you a little more about what the Global Experience Office at Centennial College has given me the opportunity to do. I do not have an official job title; ‘project management intern’ is what I guess the official label might be, but what I am actually doing is a combination of Business Process Management (BPM), Administrative Management, and Admissions Officer/Recruitment Officer. There is only three of us and we work in one office together. The office space is probably 10’x12’ and can get crowded with prospective students coming and going, but it gets the job done!

“The Office”
“The Office” Part Two!

My work is fairly unstructured. I make observations about the work being done at the office and comment on what I see and where possible improvements can be made in order to help the office run more efficiently and more effectively. I formalize the process by putting everything into formal reports. The Panama recruitment office is fairly new (less than two years old), but it reaches a lot of prospective students and there’s a lot of potential for growth. What I’m doing is helping establish written business processes in order to ease and facilitate growth and efficiency.

The home of Centennial College’s Recruitment Office in Panama. A massive 4-tower structure; we’re on floor 15 in Tower B.

My relationship with my boss is a virtual one. She works at the Centennial College International Office at Progress Campus, and manages all of the recruitment offices for all of Latin America, Spain, and Portugal. Communication is through email for the most part, however I am becoming quite familiar with Skype (which I’d never really used before). Communication within the office itself is, for me, still a challenge in terms of language barriers. Though both of my coworkers speak English, they are native Panamanians and the business they do is all in Spanish, since the majority of Panamanians have a very limited understanding of English, if any at all. In order to facilitate my immersion into the language, we’ve started speaking one day in English only and one day in Spanish only. So far we haven’t successfully done a WHOLE day in just Spanish… but I am learning!

In addition to business process management, I’m assisting my coworkers with the work that they do as well. I travel with them to high schools and assist in making presentations and representing Centennial at school events and fairs, I help fill out and correct paperwork (where possible), and I interact with students who’ve made appointments with the office to learn more about Centennial or want to start the application process. On several occasions I’ve given my own advice to students getting ready to travel. If they have questions, I’m happy to answer on any subject: the school, the city, the country, and the weather.

My Two Coworkers and a Student Representing Centennial at a Fair

The fact that my work is unstructured allows much more flexibility in understanding what they do here and assisting me to adapt and become a real and contributing part of the team. I set myself schedules for work to finish, take time to understand processes and office functions, as well as immerse myself into the language and communicate as much as possible to my coworkers and students coming through about what I’m doing here, and how I can help. Self-motivation and personal accountability goes a long way working in a small office; and gets you noticed! The work I’m doing will, I hope, serve to make everyone’s lives easier and more productive, as well as lead to more and more Panamanian students enrolling into Centennial College!

A Billboard in Panama City advertising Centennial College!

2 thoughts on “My Purpose in Panama

  1. Good job Mara! Seems like you’re off to a great start and If you aren’t fluent in Spanish yet, you will be soon. Remember to journal (or remember) everything you do every week, cause 1) we need to write reports and 2) record what you did for career documents (i.e. resume building).

    Now go and write a post about how you use(d) MBI. =P

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