View across a Panamania beach with palm trees

Health in the Tropics: Humans, Animals, & Ecosystems

  1. Program Details

    Freshman Seminar Abroad: Learn about the intersection between animal health, human health, and the environment by studying the history and ecosystems of Panama.

    Location Bocas del Toro, Panama
    Term Spring Break
    Housing Dormitory
    Credit Type Resident Credit
    Sponsor Learning Abroad Center

    Program Eligibility

    GPA No Requirement
    Student Type UofM Students
    Student Year Freshmen
    Language No Language Prerequisite
  2. About Health in the Tropics: Humans, Animals, & Ecosystems

    Home to indigenous populations, host to the vast biodiversity of tropical rainforest and reef ecosystems, and visited by increasing numbers of tourists, Panama bridges more than just North and South America. Panama City and the Bocas del Toro archipelago provide excellent landscapes to understand the connectivity of human, animal, and environmental health in both tropical rainforest and reef ecosystems.

    During this Freshman Seminar Abroad, immerse yourself in Panama's culture, livelihoods, and indigenous community health, the impacts and opportunities of ecotourism, and a variety of conversation efforts.

    Course Description

    The future health of our world requires a generation of creative, motivated, and strategic thinkers prepared to collaborate across disciplines and sectors to proactively protect the health of humans, animals, and their environment. In this seminar, learn about the challenges and opportunities of human, animal, and ecosystem health (One Health) in Panama.

    In Panama City, examine the history of the Panama Canal, built just over 100 years ago, which greatly impacted world trade. In preparation for this great engineering feat, public health and sanitation programs were created to deal with numerous tropical diseases, including malaria and other health threats that not only benefited the builders of the canal, but also the local populations.

    Housing & Meals

    In Panama City, stay in dorms in the Cuidad del Saber (City of Knowledge).

    In Bocas del Toro, live in the student center on Isla Bastimentos. The student center includes classroom space, student rooms, shared bathrooms, kitchen and lounge space, and laundry facilities. Some meals, including breakfast and welcome and farewell meals, are included in the program fee. Take additional meals at local restaurants or prepare them in the student center kitchen.


    While in Panama, the surroundings will become your classroom as you explore and experience the seminar coursework through site visits. These excursions in Panama City and Bocas del Toro may include:

    Panama City

    • Guided tour of the Panama Canal
    • Visit BioMuseo to learn about biodiversity and conservation efforts
    • Visit Casco Viejo, Panama City’s historic Old Town

    Bocas del Toro

    • Visit Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park and Zapatillas Cays
    • Community visit with Buena Esperanza
    • Visit to the Floating Doctors headquarters
    • Visit to local organic farm


    All program participants will be taking the coordinated group flight to and from the program site. The cost of the group flight is included in the program fee that will be posted to your student account. Do not book your own flight, you will receive information from the Learning Abroad Center regarding your seat on the group flight once your participation has been confirmed.

    Learning Outcomes

    • Socialize first-year students as global professionals who understand that human interaction and culture are relevant to achieving professional goals
    • Discover and connect with the University of Minnesota campus and community
    • Prepare students to think critically, analyze topics, and appreciate diverse perspectives through pre-departure coursework, learning abroad and guided reflection
    • Function as an effective team member by utilizing personal strengths in a group setting
    • Develop an understanding of the importance of future international and intercultural learning

    Faculty & Staff

    This seminar is taught by Karin Hamilton, DVM, MPH, Pre-Health Student Resource Center. She has extensive experience working globally in 14 countries in health fields and has led multiple student programs to Thailand related to global health, interprofessional/One Health, and intercultural development. This seminar is co-led by Tricia Todd, Director of the Pre-Health Student Resource Center at the University of Minnesota and an adjunct instructor in the School of Public Health. She has led many programs abroad through the University and serves on the Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility Leadership Team. Scott Simpson, Career Counselor for the Pre-Health Student Resource Center, will also be co-leading the on-campus portion of the course.

    About the Learning Abroad Center

    Learning Abroad Center programs are:

    • Affordable: our programs are cost effective.
    • Academically strong: many programs have strong University of Minnesota departmental support and offer pre-approved courses for many majors.
    • Culturally rich: regardless of the program you choose, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture.
    • Expertly managed: our staff in Minnesota and abroad are trained professionals and are always available to answer your questions from extensive pre-departure advising and online orientations to reentry programming. Your safety and well-being are paramount, and we work hard to ensure you have a rewarding and safe experience abroad.
  3. Program Structure

    Program Type Instructor-Led
    Program Level 1900-level course

    One 3-credit course

    Course Schedule

    Combine on-campus class during the spring semester with study abroad during spring break. On-campus Spring Semester 2020 course meets: Tuesdays from 2:30–4:25 p.m. on East Bank. Abroad term: Spring Break 2020


    Syllabus for Spring 2020

    During the Spring Break week, students will have the opportunity to apply the knowledge learned in the early Spring semester to observations and experiences in Panama. Site visits and discussions in Panama City will explore the culture of Panama, the history of the building of the Panama Canal and its impact on local, regional, and global health. Site visits and discussions in Bocas del Toro will explore human, animal, and ecosystem health in tropical rainforest and reef ecosystems including the culture, livelihood, and health of indigenous populations, conservation efforts, and ecotourism. The teams will ask questions during site visits from their assigned One Health perspective in preparation for their final photo poster project on One Health in Panama.

    Upon returning to UofM, students will participate in re-entry activities, present their photo posters reflecting their team’s understanding of One Health in Panama from their assigned perspective, and have a final class debrief. Students will complete reflective journal entries throughout the semester and a final person reflection on One Health in Panama compared and contrasted to Minnesota/US.

    • Understand the challenges and opportunities of human, animal, and ecosystem health in Panama while comparing and contrasting it to the US and/or Minnesota.

    • Engage with local community organizations including health care providers, non-profit organizations, organic farms, and eco-friendly resorts.

    • Discover the beauty of tropical Panama by visiting botanical gardens and marine parks, and learn about conservation efforts.

    Receive credit for: AHS 1901

    Approved for: Global Perspectives Liberal Education theme

  4. Dates & Deadlines

    Submit the online application and complete the assigned application checklist according to the appropriate deadline:
    Term Program Dates Application Deadline
    Spring Break 2020 Mar 6, 2020  –  Mar 15, 2020 Dec 1, 2019

    Important Note: This program departs for Panama early on Friday, March 6. If you have any class on Friday, March 6th, you will need to miss them in order to travel.

    Program dates are subject to change.

    If the deadline falls on a weekend, submit your materials on the following business day.

    Important Note: Enrollment on this program is limited to 20 students. Admission is granted on a rolling basis and applications are reviewed in the order they are completed. Some programs may fill to capacity prior to the application deadline, therefore applying early is recommended. Additionally, applying early will allow for more time to plan ahead and prepare for the program.

    On Campus Dates

    Tuesdays, 2:30-4:20 p.m., East Bank

    Orientation Dates & Locations

    Orientation will be conducted in 2 parts: an online orientation, which is mandatory for all students, and an in-person, program-specific session. You will receive more information about the online orientation via email. Failure to complete the online orientation will impact your ability to go abroad.

    See below for tentative dates and times for your in-person session. You will be notified of the official date and time via email. Participants will receive applicable orientation materials via email approximately 1 week prior to the in-person session.

    Term Abroad Date/Time Location
    Spring Break 2020 TBD TBD
  5. Fees for Health in the Tropics: Humans, Animals, & Ecosystems

    Spring Break 2020 Cost of Participation

    The program fee includes airfare, housing, program administration, welcome and farewell meals, most additional meals, international health insurance, entrances to course-related excursions and site visits, airport transfers, and in-country transportation for all course related activities. Typically, program fees range between $4,000–$4,500. Students must also budget for passport and passport photos, a few meals, spending money, and miscellaneous living expenses.

    If you do not see a budget estimate for the term you intend to go abroad, the fee has not yet been finalized. We strive to post fees for this program at least 30 days prior to the application deadline. The Learning Abroad Center will delay the posting of some fees until enrollments, inflation and exchange rates are determined. Note the average increase in fees will be 3–10%. Program fees are based on estimates and may change depending on international economic factors.

    If you are registered for less than 13-credits or if you are a non-UofM student, you will be charged tuition for this course in addition to the program fee.  Notify the Learning Abroad Center if this applies to you.  

    Billing & Payments

    Visit Billing for information about the billing process for application fees, deposits, and program fees.

    Financial Aid & Scholarships

    Visit Financial Information for information on using financial aid and scholarships for study abroad.

    Freshman Seminar Abroad participants are eligible to apply for a specific Freshman Seminar Abroad scholarship. Applications are due October, 15, 2019. Apply HERE.

    Bridging Loan

    Bridging Loan, a no-interest/no-fees loan that funds the upfront deposit and flights costs, is available for this program for eligible students.

    Cancellation Policy

    Before you apply to or confirm your participation on this program, review the Learning Abroad Center's Cancellation Policy to inform yourself of the timeline and financial obligations for canceling.
  6. Prepare

    Complete pre-application advising.

    Be aware: All programs require a $50 application fee. This fee will be charged to your student account upon submission of an online application.

    To complete the online application for this program, you will need to select or provide the following information on the online application:

    Center Name TC Learning Abroad Ctr
    Education Abroad Term Spring Break 2020
    Program Name Freshman Seminar Abroad: Health in the Tropics: Humans, Animals, & Ecosystems
    Track Name Freshman Seminar Abroad: Health in the Tropics: Humans, Animals, & Ecosystems
    Country Panama


    University of Minnesota Student—apply

    Use your University of Minnesota internet ID and password to log into the Education Abroad application system. Your student account will be charged a $50 application fee.


    After you submit your application, you will receive an email notification confirming that your application was received. Submitted applications are assigned an application checklist, which will include the following items:

    • Application Essay

    Detailed descriptions and instructions for submitting each checklist item are included on the application checklist assigned to you.

    Next Steps

    After your application checklist is complete, your application is reviewed by our program team. You will be notified of an acceptance decision by email. If accepted, you will be assigned a confirmation checklist, which you will complete to confirm your participation in the program. If you decide not to continue with the application process, log into the online application system and submit a Cancel Request.

    Register for On Campus Course

    Your participation on this program is secured by applying and confirming through the Learning Abroad Center application process.

    You will also need to register for the on-campus course AHS 1901.

    Note: Registering for the course, but not confirming through the Learning Abroad Center, will not hold your spot in the program.

  7. Program Contact

    For further information or questions about this program, send an email to

    Amy Garwood-Diaz or call at 612.624.1537.