It’s just like that “real job” your parents talked to you about…

After one full month working, I’ve got to say that I’m getting a really good taste of what it’s like to depart the academic world and embark on my bright and shiny work-filled future. It’s not a whole lot like I expected it to be, but so far…so good. *Knocks on wood.*

Here in Panama, I wear many ‘hats’: I observe and make notes on the office’s functions and processes, and write reports to my boss making suggestions on how to improve office function. I’m also writing out formal written business processes for the office to streamline and universalize things that they do so that new hires have an easy reference, and my coworkers don’t have to keep everything in their memory. I’m seeing some of my suggestions implemented, and it feels good!

In addition to these functions, I’m assisting in the actual office work. Currently, the office is in the process of finalizing everything to send a group of 42 Panamanian students to Centennial College for a six-month English program. They are scheduled to fly out on July 12, so needless to say that there have been a lot of meetings and late nights at the office, on top of the regular travelling and promoting Centennial College and meeting with prospective students to advise them about their future academic career at Centennial.

In the month that I’ve been here, I’ve rarely had a workday that’s been less than ten hours, and the days themselves have very little structure. My coworkers here are dedicated individuals and do what they need to do to get the work done. I’m enjoying my first taste of office work beyond simply an administrative position in a large office; working in a smaller office I’m really getting a much more rounded and personalized experience, which I am taking full advantage of by taking in and giving as much as I possibly can. I am an integral part of this office, and by no means just a ‘coffee fetcher’…although if I AM on my way to get myself something, I’ll always ask if anyone else would like anything 🙂

One thing that I am not enjoying in Panama is the traffic. In promoting Centennial College, the office here does a lot of travelling to different high schools in the region to do presentations. A trip as far as Aguadulce (Three hours away, and the feature of my next blog) is uncommon, however, when we get invited to make a presentation, we never say no. In general, though, most of the high schools are right within Panama City; but even then, the driving can take twice or three times as long as it should because of the traffic and ..let’s say ‘aggressive driving culture’ and an insane amount of construction going on. The construction is due to a multi-year project to build a subway; it’s scheduled to be completed in two years, but until then half of Panama’s roads are either closed off, temporarily one-way detours, or reduced lanes. You’d think it’d be no big deal after building the Panama Canal.

Taxis will rarely even go to some regions of the city (including the area I work in) because traffic is always that bad and they stand to lose money. (Taxis charge a standard rate here no matter the time or distance.) Every time I get into a car, I say a small prayer, try NOT to press my braking foot through the floor underneath my passenger seat, and discreetly look up the safety rating of the car that I’m getting into.

But that’s all just a part of the experience!

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