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I signed up for this trip with no idea as to what we were going to be doing. All I knew was I had never been to Panamá and it sounded awesome. Being a political science major I had studied Panamá extensively from a United States of America viewpoint.  I imagined a country and city completely centered around the canal.  I had seen photos of the city, and read articles on the political atmosphere, yet I still did not know entirely what to expect.  Any expectations I had were completely skewed by my Western perspective.

Flying into Panamá immediately blew away my expectations and really set the tone for the rest of the trip.  From the sky you can see a complex metropolitan, equivalent in magnitude to New York, full of high rises sprawled around the bay.  As you begin to descend towards the airport your attention shifts to the outskirts of the city to the beautiful green forestation of the wetlands.

As we drove around the outskirts of the city to the City of Knowledge my anticipation and just sense of awe overwhelmed me. We had a brief meeting with Julio, the Head of Office of Wetlands International in Panamá and begun to discuss what we would be doing. It became apparent that Julio had handpicked our team to be diverse but pointed teams. We all had areas of expertise, in politics, different areas in science and communication.

All of this greatly amplified my excitement to get to work with Wetlands International.  The program was designed specifically to incorporate each of our individual talents in a manner that aided our common goal, preservation of the wetlands. The inclusion of field trips to the impacted areas, and talks with a number of experts including environmental attorneys, United Nations representatives, and journalists from local newspapers, we were able to have creative discussions that expanded our solution ideas.

Through trips to El Cerro Ancón, the Metropolitan Park, and the city all give you a first-hand experience of the interrelatedness and connection between Panamá City and the nature around it. When these trips were combined with the law system and media talks we were able to see the environmental issues in Panamá from many different perspectives. This allowed us to compare and contrast the different viewpoints to obtain a broader and, in my opinion, stronger understanding of the Panamanian environment.

Wetlands International, in what must have been an enormous amount of preparation, turned these three short days into a massively influential and effective educational program. I know my experience in Panamá will be something I pull from for the rest of my professional life.  I would like to thank Julio and Sander for an amazing trip and program. It is my hope that we can continue to serve Wetlands International by maintaining an open dialogue and continuing to work on our ideas at home. I know many of us are already looking for ways to return to Panamá and to continue to promote the importance of the wetlands.

Ethan Murray

TCU Global Academy

Photos by Ethan Murray & Sander Carpay

Other blogs & articles:

Jimmy Greene – Culture Quest Seeking Global Sustainability

Janette Quezada – Exploring the Truth

Katherine Pfeiffer – Exploring Panamá

Devin Rayburn – Learning and Fun in the Wetlands

TCU360 – Students reflect on Central American spring break

Ciudad del Saber – Presentación de estudiantes de TCU para la comunidad Ciudad del Saber (Spanish)


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