How much spending money do I need to bring to Panama?
The good news is that you don’t need to exchange money. The US dollar is used in Panama and the Balboa exchanges at 1 to 1.
“How much” depends on your shopping/eating habits, and how many non-program activities you want to do. However, there is not a lot of free time outside of program activities.
The Panamanian government requires that people coming into Panama have $500 dollars. However, this is lot of cash to carry and CATHALAC can usually assist new arrivals at customs so that it’s not necessary to have the full amount. Therefore, we recommend bringing $150 (for entry purposes) and a major credit card. Big bills are hard to break in Panama, so a majority of smaller bills ($10 and under) is preferable.
Check with your bank before going to Panama. Likely, you can withdraw money from ATMs with a small additional fee.
Do I need to bring a credit card?
Yes. You must bring a major credit card for emergency use for amounts more than can be withdrawn with an ATM/debit card.
Where can I keep my money and valuables?
The first rule of traveling is, “Don’t bring anything with you that you are not willing to lose.” So, big-ticket items should probably stay at home. Having said that, the lodgings are secure, and you can likely prevent any possible problems by keeping your money and valuables locked in your suitcase in your room.
Do I need to carry my passport with me all the time? How about the passport card?
Panamanian law requires that visitors carry their passports at all times. Since officials might not recognize the more convenient passport card, it’s better to carry your actual passport. The best way is to wrap it in cloth and put it in a ziplock plastic bag (to keep it dry) in your front pocket.
Can my parents/friends visit me during my free weekends?
No. Outside visits during the program are highly discouraged. It’s important to remember that the Research and Study Abroad Program is not a vacation. The program is very demanding, and even during weekends, participants are making follow-up site visits, working on their final research projects, or participating in the program’s excursions and activities. Furthermore, non-participants are not able to join program activities.
What kind of clothes do I need to bring? I’ve heard Panamanians don’t wear shorts. Is it true?
You will need some good hiking shoes and outdoor clothes, but you’ll also spend a lot of time in the program facilities, so casual work clothes are also necessary. At times, you’ll also go into town, and may want to dress nicely.
Traditionally, Panamanians don’t wear shorts unless they are playing sports or at the beach. However, in recent years, this tradition has relaxed, and it’s accepted more. However, be forewarned that some institutions (especially government ones) might not allow you to enter the building if they feel you are inappropriately dressed. Always ask the CATHALAC staff if you are in doubt about appropriate wear.
What’s it like living in the accomodations in Panama?
Participants are housed for 2 weeks at the City of Knowledge and one week in the field. Lodging will be dorm style and/or a small inn. Participants will share a room with another roommate or roommates.
I don’t speak Spanish. Can I still do the program?
Don’t worry. The program is taught in English or translated through interpreters. Pre-departure spanish training is offered in which you’ll learn practical Spanish that will help you in your daily and research activities. The more Spanish you learn, the better your experience will be, so take full advantage of learning or improving your Spanish in Panama!
Is Panama City dangerous?
Like any any modern, large city, there are certain areas and times that are more dangerous than others. In the orientation, you will be informed of what areas to avoid. As anywhere, walking or going somewhere alone (especially at night) is highly discouraged. Walking or going places in groups is always best at any time.
What is there to do outside of program activities?
There are many things you can do in Panama City. The Old City and Causeway are popular places for sightseeing, shopping or eating out. Or you can visit a nearby national park for hiking.
During the program, independent travel outside of Panama City is limited due to the lack of free time and the nature of potential risks, language barriers and transportation reliability. For safety’s sake, participants must consult with CATHALAC prior to independent travel away from Panama City. Proposed travel cannot conflict with scheduled program activities and must be approved by the Cathalac study abroad coordinator in advance.
Do I have to apply to and enroll through UAHuntsville to be able to participate in the program?
Yes. All participants need to apply to and be accepted to UAHuntsville BEFORE they can apply to be in the program. You can read about how to apply to UAHuntsville here. Once you have been accepted and assigned an “A Number,” you can apply for the summer program.
If you are selected to be a participant, you will be able to enroll in ESS 490 (Selected Topics in Environmental Science) and ESS 499 (Undergraduate Research Capstone) which are the classes that make up the summer program. Participants can earn six undergraduate credits that are transferrable.
If all the materials are in order, US citizen and international applicants can apply electronically and be admitted quickly.
What is the application deadline?
All complete applications received by March 15, 2013 will be considered. Applications are not considered complete unless we have received ALL of the application materials:
3. Statement of Purpose
4. Recommendation Letter (must be sent directly from the Evaluator, NOT the applicant) Therefore, it’s very important to follow-up with your Evaluator to ensure that they have sent the recommendation form, and in time for the deadline.
When can I learn if I’ve been accepted into the program?
Applicants will be informed of the selection committee’s decision within two to three weeks after the deadline. Successful applicants must pass a physical, sign a letter of committment and provide a $300 deposit as soon as possible thereafter to hold their spot in the program.
How do I get to Panama?
Participants will take a program arranged group flight from Huntsville airport.
Are “visiting students” eligible for financial support from UAHuntsville?
No. Only current full-time UAHuntsville students are eligible for program funding from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Therefore, visiting students are encouraged to seek funding from their home institutions as early as possible in the application process. Visiting students are highly encouraged to seek funding AT THE SAME TIME they apply to the program. If they wait until after the selection process, it will likely not leave enough time to find funding opportunities.