So, it’s finally here, my last day in Panama. Wow. I can’t believe all of the stuff I brought with me to Panama fit into one suitcase and one carry on last time. Clearly my packing skills are lacking this time around, because I’m having serious difficulties. I’m pretty sure the bags are over the weight limit, but we will find out for sure at the airport in about 3 hours.
The last three months have been an experience that I’m never going to be able to convey to others as well as I want to, though I’ve been trying with my blogging. On one hand, it feels like I’ve been here for years: I’m used to it now, and I’ve adjusted to living here. On the other hand, it feels like it’s only been a few days, and I’m not ready to leave yet; I’ve just gotten settled!
Panama has changed me. For the better, I firmly believe, though I will let the people at home in Canada decide that for sure. I’ve learned more about myself and the world in the last three months than I could have ever hoped to; my whole perspective has shifted and my eyes have been opened in more than one way. It was a true learning experience and I have grown, as has my understanding of the world.
As I am a part of the first group of students that Centennial College has sent abroad with their newly established Global Experience Office, I feel as though I should shout it for everyone at Centennial to hear: “do this internship!” As I’ve said before, you can only read and hear about international experiences so much. You need to need to absolutely get your boots on the ground and experience it first-hand. This was my first experience travelling internationally individually, and some experience it was.
There is a lot of advice that I would impart to students following in my wake. Keeping it brief, these are my words of wisdom:
- Don’t come in with any preconceptions or ideas; whatever you’re thinking, it’ll be different than what you expect.
- It won’t be a perfect experience. Just like any kind of travel, there will be ups, there will be downs, there will be hiccups, and there will be changes in your plans. Don’t let these things deter you; stay positive, and go with the flow. It’s all a part of the experience!
- Bring your sense of humour with you, along with an acute awareness of culture and cultural differences. You will need to use both. A lot.
- Be as prepared as possible, with information, advice, and knowledge from anywhere you can get it, but understand that you will never ever be prepared for everything.
- Bring a phrasebook. Or a dictionary. Or if you have a smartphone, get a translator app; you’ll need it.
- Embrace it all; the culture, the language, the food, the music, the sights, the sounds; meet the people, put yourself out there (always remember to keep your personal safety in mind) and enjoy.