Reflection by Caitlyn Costa

After a few days back in the city, in the comfort of my own apartment, I have had some time to reflect on my study abroad experience in Panama. Even while I was still there, I knew that this trip was something I would never forget, and I had already been mentally cataloging the main takeaways. My study abroad trip to Panama reinvigorated my sense of adventure, sparked a desire to learn species scientific names, and propelled my interest in botany. It also allowed me to reevaluate my personal and career goals, as well as better define where my personal boundaries lie. All the time I spent in nature while abroad made me feel more connected to the curious, adventurous part of myself, and I’m trying to keep it a part of my life even as I’m miles away from the Caribbean and the rainforest. Being outdoors all the time also made me more uninhibited; when you haven’t showered in three days and you’re crawling through a cave covered in bat guano, you tend not to sweat the insignificant things as much. Now I feel the pull even more to surround myself with nature, to explore and question things, and I’m less afraid to take (calculated) risks. On our last snorkeling trip, it was such a gratifying feeling to be able to swim along the coral reefs and spot and name the different organisms; back home, I am attempting to learn more about the native species in Charleston, as well as the edible plant species in the area. One of my biggest takeaways was the importance of self-sufficiency, solution-based thinking, and adaptability in any situation you might be thrown into. Not everything about this study abroad trip was easy, but I came out of it more resilient and with the knowledge that I can handle more than I think I can. The next time I am experiencing hardship, I can recall this trip and apply the lessons I learned.

Pig’s Ear mushrooms in the Cloud Forest in Boquete.
Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates) in the tropical rainforest at ITEC

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