Make Panama your new home with AFS! Perfect for Spanish learners, nature lovers, and adventure seekers, Panama is a warm and welcoming country ready to embrace students from all over the world.

Also known as “the place of many fish”, Panama is a tropical paradise with beaches, rainforests and exotic animals, birds and sea life of unparalleled beauty.  Sometimes called the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and transformed this country into an international trade hub.

Academics play a major role in teen life here, with study groups a common after-school gathering. On weekends, groups of friends to go to the movies, play sports (baseball, soccer and basketball are favorites), dance and attend regional festivals.

Why Panama?

Panama is much more than its famed canal. The country’s curvy, narrow land mass serves as a physical—and cultural—land bridge between North and South America. Its natural beauty is unsurpassed, with hundreds of deserted islands scattered through warm seas, densely forested wilderness, and beautiful wildlife.

Panama City is one of the most cosmopolitan, culturally distinct, and enjoyable capital cities in all of Central America. Modern commercial buildings blend with cobbled streets and Spanish colonial architecture. West of the capital lies the Panama Canal, the legendary feat of humankind that unites two entire oceans.

If you’re interested in experiencing true rainforests you can visit the Soberania National Park, just 25 miles north of Panama City. The Bastimentos Marine National Park in Bocas del Toro offers some of the best diving and snorkeling in Central America!

People & Community

You will probably live in a small town or rural area, where the whole neighbourhood will make you part of the family! Don’t worry – since Panama is small and public transport is good, you will have lots of opportunities to see other towns! Your host family will want to know your whereabouts, so check in with your host parents before you make decisions. Also, like your host siblings, don’t forget your household chores.

90% of hosted students go to families in the “interior”, to tiny villages or small cities. Life in these communities tends to be more relaxed, based around the family and simple community activities. AFS participants stand out as different but everyone in your small town will consider you part of the family! Your host family will want to know your whereabouts, so check in with your host parents before you make decisions. Also, like your host siblings, don’t forget your household chores.

Traditionally, Panamanians have not placed a lot of importance on preparing daily meals and complicated dishes. Most families usually eat dishes that are easy and quick to prepare, rice being the main staple for lunch and dinner. Rice is accompanied by portions of meat, beans, plantains and, sometimes, vegetables. Most families do not sit together at the table for meals, each member usually eats at different times and locations in the house – this is the way Panamanian families have had their meals for centuries!



The primary language in Panama is Spanish, and many people speak English as well. Panama has one of the highest literacy rates in the region (97%).

You will probably attend a public school, and you will definitely wear uniform – all Panamanian high schools have strict uniform policies! Public high schools tend to be large, with between 1,000 and 2,500 students in grades 7 to 12. School runs in two shifts, and most AFS students attend the morning session to allow for afternoon activities. The school day can begin as early as 6:45am and end at 1pm!

The curriculum for each school year is comprised by approximately 16 subjects, with a different schedule each day. Students choose their field of study, like Sciences, Business, or Humanities, and take all the classes for that field.


The primary language in Panama is Spanish, and many people speak English as well. A basic knowledge of Spanish will be helpful.


Panamanian food is varied and delicious. Rice is the staple of the diet and is eaten twice a day. Meals include meat, beans, platanos (a type of starchy banana) and vegetables like tomatoes, carrots and cabbage. Don’t forget to taste the chichas, sweet cold fruit drinks. While food is important, it is not usually the focus for family time – Panamanians don’t often eat as a family!

Let AFS guide your intercultural adventure

AFS provides comprehensive orientation for all students and families before, during and after your exchange – AFS volunteers will be there to support and guide you the whole way through! In-person orientation camps in New Zealand and your host country are supplemented by our world-leading online Student Learning Journey, which is an interactive course that brings AFSers from around the world together to develop essential global skills, learn intercultural communication techniques, and practice social impact. This journey will help you maximise your experience, cope with the challenges of navigating a new culture and community, and gain knowledge, skills, and a global understanding throughout your time abroad and as you return to your home country. Find out more about our educational expertise here!

Explore the Programmes Available in Panama

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  • DestinationPanama
  • DurationsYear
  • Program Dates
    • Sep 2024 - Jul 2025