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As the gateway to South America, Panama is an ideal place to rewrite your high school experience. Join teenagers from across the globe on a study abroad journey that will turn your “everyday” completely upside down. By going to a local high school, you’ll be totally immersed in Panamanian language and culture, and what you learn during the day will be reinforced at night when you go home to your own host family and community. This isn’t just an adventure abroad; this is a whole new reality.

Things to know

Get ready for lots of rice and beans! Panamanians highly value politeness. You’ll say “buenos dias” or “buenos noches” to almost everyone you pass. Stock up on flip flops – they’re the preferred choice of footwear, though pretty brutal when you get caught in an afternoon rainstorm.

Eligibility Requirements

Current high school students and recent graduates are eligible. Specific age requirements may apply; contact AFS for more details.
Must be in good academic standing (recommended GPA of 2.5 or above).

Your journey to Panama

Your journey to Panama will begin in Miami or New York, where you’ll meet your fellow AFSers from the US. You’ll learn some essentials for your first days in Panama and speak with a Cultural Resource who recently spent time there. Then, you’re off! You’ll travel with a group to Panama City.

You’ll be welcomed by AFS Staff and Volunteers and have an orientation before you head to your new community. Along the way, you’re bound to notice the vast diversity of Panama – both in landscape and people. You’ll pass areas that are bustling commercial centers, with people shouting as they rush down the street. Then what may feel like only moments later, you’ll notice lush tropical landscapes out your window, dotted with small, traditional villages. No matter where you are, though, you’re likely to find colorful markets with fresh fruit juice carts lining the streets.

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Meeting Your Host Family

AFSers have lived in communities all throughout Panama, but you’ll most likely be in a small town or rural area. Young adults who aren’t married tend to live with their parents, so there’s a chance you’ll have an older host sibling living at home with you.

You can expect to spend weekends with the extended family, gathering together to enjoy conversation and a home-cooked meal. Each region in Panama also hosts its own unique festival with music and dancing. The whole community takes part in the preparation, sharing tasks and celebrating the end result.

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Settling into daily life in Panama

Teenage Life in Panama

You’ll have the chance to form close connections with some of the first people you’ll meet in Panama, since most teenagers spend their time with school friends when they’re not with family. Classmates like to form study groups that meet before exams, and they’ll organize weekend events together, too. In your free time, you can join friends going to dances, to the movies or just hanging out in the park. Baseball, soccer and basketball are popular, but no matter what the activity, teenagers generally like to hang out in a group, rather than solo.

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Food you’ll encounter in Panama

The foods of Panama reflect the diversity of its people. Rice is the staple – you’ll almost never see a meal without it. You’ll also see a lot of meat, beans, platanos (a type of banana) and vegetables like tomatoes, carrots and cabbage. Most dishes aren’t too spicy. Whatever the meal, you’ll often get a sweet, cold drink called “chicha” along with it. Unlike most other Latin American countries, mealtime tends to be pretty informal. Aside from big family dinners, you and your family might eat at different times, each person grabbing food when you’re hungry.

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Your High School

Every study abroad experience is different, but you’ll most likely go to a public high school. You’ll work with AFS Staff to choose your field of study among topics like business, humanities, sciences, etc. While not all of your classes will focus on that subject, it will give you the chance to explore what you’re passionate about, and talk to other students with shared interests. High schools in Panama have either morning sessions from 7 to 12:30, or afternoon sessions from 1:15 to 5:30, so you’ll have lots of free time to study or see friends. Like in most areas in the world, you’ll wear a uniform.

What's Included

  • 70+ years of experience delivering high-quality programs through a worldwide network of 50,000 dedicated volunteers
  • Accommodations with a vetted host family
  • Round-trip international airfare for the designated program dates
  • School enrollment fees
  • Worldwide, 24-hour emergency assistance
  • Access to an in-country support team and network, as well as our Participant Support Department based here in the U.S.
  • Orientations and intercultural education before and during your program
  • Secondary medical coverage
  • Visa support and guidance
  • Inclusion in a worldwide returnee and alumni network of over 1,000,000 people
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Returning Home

“Life-changing” is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad. “Transformed” is another one.
When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and developed the confidence and resilience to accomplish anything you set out to do.
That transformation isn’t only visible to you, though – others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers. Second language fluency, intercultural competence, creativity, and critical reasoning will help you succeed, whatever path you take. “Life-changing” means it’s only the beginning.
It’s not just an adventure abroad; it’s a whole new reality. The perspectives and personal connections you gained will stay with you and likely draw you back to the second home you found in Panama.

In fact, our alumni reviews have made AFS one of the top-rated organizations in the study abroad industry.

A new you awaits.

Apply for High School Study Abroad in Panama!

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