Welcome to the Jungle?

Summer in Panama students visited Geoversity for an immersive experience that allowed them to put their classroom knowledge into practice. This week’s chronicle, written by our Assistant Director and summer correspondent Chassidy Simmons, shares that journey with us. If you want to learn more about the Summer in Panama program or other summer programs, you can visit our Academics section on the website. 


Written by Chassidy Simmons



We are halfway through our summer in Panama, and a lot has happened since the last time you heard from us. Last week we traveled two hours outside of Panama City, Panama to spend two days at Geoversity in the Mamoní Valley Preserve. At Geoversity, also called Nature’s University, the rainforest was not only our classroom but also our teacher. Led by Agar Ikleña, an indigenous guide from the Guna Yala community, we connected the themes we learned in class like biodiversity and climate change to the wildlife and vegetation we saw in Mamoní. Did you know that with over 10,000 plant species Panama is one of the most diverse places on planet earth? On our hike--yes, we even went on a hike--Agar shared Guna Yala myths with us and talked about the importance of the Guna Yala comarca, or indigenous province, nearby. After birdwatching for toucans and hiding from fruit bats while exploring Geoversity, we made s’mores by a bonfire while we sang along as one of the students on our program Ciara Pruett performed an original song. 

Back at Ciudad del Saber, we met with indigenous historian Charles Arias to ask more questions about Guna Yala identity here in Panama. In our discussion with Charles, we talked about the differences between early traditions and present-day family dynamics in the Guna community. We learned about Guna Yala history and literature and how modernization and US influence have changed the culture of the Guna Yala in the 21st century. 

Because we are here in Panama, we have been taking advantage of all of our opportunities to practice Spanish with the local community. So, we met with local students from a colegio here in Ciudad del Saber to do a language exchange. We spent half of our time practicing our Spanish and half of our time helping the local students converse in English. In our conversation groups, some of us talked about our favorite movie franchises like The Fast and the Furious and The Avengers while others talked about the infamous hip-hop battle between Drake and Kendrick Lamar and shared reggaeton playlists. 

We are having the time of our lives, we cannot come to terms with how quickly our time here in Panama is running out. There is so much more we want to explore and lots more to learn.