Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. It controls the Panama Canal that links the North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean, one of the most important shipping routes in the world.
Those considering study in Panama may be delighted to know that Panama City was polled as having the happiest citizens in the world as of 2012, and whether visiting on vacation or to study, it's easy to see why. Panama, or the Republic of Panama, is the southernmost country found within Central America. This places Panama right on the border of South America. Think of it as the last length of bridge between North and South America and you have an idea of where it sits, geographically speaking, along Central America.
The country was explored and settled in the fifteen hundreds by the Spanish, and wears its Spanish influence proudly. Panama is home to many legends and historical adventures. One of the most well-known would be when Rodrigo de Bastidas set sail from Venezuela in 1501 on the search for gold. Predating Christopher Columbus's visit, Rodrigo became the first European to set foot on Panamanian soil, establishing a short-lived settlement on the isthmus. Traders eventually followed, discovering the country to be the gateway between the two seas, saving a lengthy detour around South America. The Panama Canal wouldn't be built for hundreds of years, of course, by the French beginning in 1881. Prior, cargo and even ships had to be transported across dry land in order to complete the trip.
Panama at a Glance
If you want to get a grasp on what Panama is all about rather quickly, then you can simply run down the following list and take note of the basic facts about the country:
- Home to Nearly 500 Rivers
If you enjoy fishing, boating, or just hanging out in nature, Panama is traversed by nearly five hundred rivers, which creates some lush and beautiful natural scenery.
- A Population of 3.5 Million
3.5 million people in an area of less than thirty thousand square miles may sound a bit dense, but more than half of that population lives in Panama City. It's not hard to find peace and quiet if you take the time to get out of the city now and then.
- Spanish is the Country's First Language
About 93% of the country speak Spanish as a first language. English is fairly common, being spoke as a second language by 8%, but you'll want to learn some Spanish in order to make your way during your college years in Panama.
- A Strong US Influence
Baseball is one of the cultural tentpoles of Panamanian society, so already that lets you know just how deep the United States influence runs in this country. What may surprise you the most about Panama is just how much they have in common with the United States. The Caribbean and Spanish influence is strong in Panama, but the food, the music, the customs and the architecture might not be so different from something you recognize from back home.
- A Prosperous Country
Panama has suffered hard times in the past, but currently boasts an unemployment rate of 2.7%, and reported a food surplus in August of 2008. By and large, you can expect Panama to be peaceful and prosperous. This also means that you can expect to meet roughly-equivalent living expenses to back home.
Study in Panama
Higher Education in Panama
Panama has a fairly progressive system in place for higher education with an estimated 88 locations within the country dedicated to higher education. As of 2004, the University of Panama, West Coast University Panama, The Technological University of Panama, and the Catholic University of Santa Maria La Antiqua boast a combined attendance of 92,500 Panamanian students. High school is not compulsory in Panama and teens are free to drop out after middle school, but the country holds a literacy rate above 90% and education is clearly a cultural value in Panama.
The first Panamania university was known as the Royal and Pontifical University of San Javier, and it had a heavy focus on theology and religious studies. Today, students study a much broader range of subjects from art to science, engineering to literature. However, religion and theology remain strong subjects for the country.
At the University of Panama, the leading higher educational institution in the country, faculties cover subjects including architecture, law, medicine and education, among other subjects. Students often attend the University of Panama in order to obtain a bachelor's before moving on to obtain a Ph.D from another school.
Panama's University scene actually isn't much different from that found in the United States in that it does not guarantee job placement, and courses might not include the sort of hands on, practical experience needed to excel in your chosen field. And so, as in the US, you have some younger people with more pragmatic aims looking into trade school as an alternative.
Of course, if your career ambitions can be covered in trade school, then it would certainly be impractical to travel all the way to Panama to study, say, carpet installation, but if you're pursuing a more long term degree, then Panama has a lot to offer, not least of which is the country's incredible wealth of history and culture, as well as the amazing sub-tropical weather, the wonderful people, and the fact that Panama is ranked fourth among Latin-American countries.
Tuition can be a little less, on average, than you'll likely find in your own home country, but travel can be difficult if you don't live on-campus or fairly near, so make sure to account for transportation when looking into funding your college experience.
If you're considering studying in Panama, you can check out http://www.ustraveldocs.com to apply for a student visa, and a number of American health insurance companies, like Cigna, offer coverage to people in Panama, as well.