Embroidered squares on display in Panama

Summer Internships in Panama

  1. Program Details

    Earn credits toward your degree and gain career experience while exploring the beautiful islands in the Bocas del Toro Province of Panama.

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

    Program Eligibility

    GPA 2.5
    Student Type UofM Students
    Student Year Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors
    Language No Language Prerequisite
  3. About Summer Internships in Panama

    Home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Panama's first National Marine Park, Bocas del Toro, Panama is known for its abundant ecosystems and biodiversity, and it is the perfect place for you to extend your studies, make a positive impact, and develop interpersonal and professional skills over the summer term. This program partners with local organizations, schools, and businesses in the Bocas del Toro region that will provide experiential learning opportunities with a focus on building meaningful connections around the world. For the internship, students will be placed independently at a local organization, school, or business based on personal and academic interests, and career goals.

    Students will live on Isla Bastimentos, a beautiful island located in a national marine park (Parque Nacional Marinas Isla Bastimentos) and home to several indigenous communities. Internship placements will be a short boat ride away on surrounding islands.

    Housing & Meals

    Participants will live in dormitories at the Learning Abroad Center student center on Isla Bastimentos. The newly constructed student center houses classroom space, student dormitories (double-occupancy), shared bathrooms, kitchen and lounge space, and laundry facilities. The student center is based at Red Frog, the first lodging establishment in Panama to be Green Globe certified for sustainable practices in the tourism industry. 

    Most meals are not included in the program cost, however students have access to a full kitchen in the student center and a nearby grocery store. There are also many cost effective dining options in the surrounding community. 


    Participants will have the opportunity to spend time exploring Panama City before arriving in Bocas Del Toro. Additionally, the program will include a long weekend excursion to Costa Rica and a trip into the mountains of central Panama. 


    The LAC arranges an optional coordinated flight in consultation with Village Travel, a local travel agency. Group flight information will be available by the program application deadline, if not before. The program staff or homestay families will meet this flight at the airport. Information, booking, and payment are handled directly by Village Travel. Consult Village Travel’s website for information on the coordinated flight. If you make your own flight arrangements, you are required to provide the LAC with a copy of your flight itinerary. Select a roundtrip flight that has a flexible return date, since most students change their return date. Flying standby is not allowed.

    Learning Outcomes

    • Cultivate awareness and appreciation for societal issues through engagement with diverse communities
    • Gain cross-cultural competencies by interacting with people at a local organization, school, or business
    • Develop a more complex understanding of Panama through visits to various geographic regions
    • Enhance knowledge of local biodiversity and its impact on Panamanian culture 

    Faculty & Staff

    A University of Minnesota instructor will be teaching the internship course, assisting with program excursions and cultural activities, and provide general student support throughout the duration of the program. Spanish language courses will be taught by local instructors. 

    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.
  4. Program Structure

    Program Type Study Abroad Center
    Program Level Internship Course (3xxx); Spanish Language (1001-1004)

    Students earn 6 to 7 credits through internship and optional language program

    Participate in a 6 credit internship or a 3 credit internship with a 4 credit Spanish language course. Enjoy small classes and individualized internship opportunities in a variety of fields including healthcare, sustainability, teaching, wildlife conservation, ecotourism, business, and more. The Summer Internships in Panama program is 8 weeks.


    Internship Track 

    Participate in a 6 credit internship and internship course.

    Syllabus for Internship Course (3 credit)

    Internship Plus Spanish Language Track

    Participate in a 3 credit internship and internship course; Take a 4 credit Spanish language course.

    Syllabi for Spanish Courses

    Syllabus for Beginning Spanish I (PDF) FOST 1xxx (= SPAN 1001)

    Syllabus for Beginning Spanish II (PDF) FOST 1xxx (= SPAN 1002)

    Syllabus for Intermediate Spanish I (PDF) FOST 1xxx (= SPAN 1003)

    Syllabus for Intermediate Spanish II (PDF) FOST 1xxx (= SPAN 1004)

    Medical Spanish and Community Health Service FOST 3xxx (=SPAN 3404)

    This is an advanced language and culture course designed to train students to achieve effective communication with Spanish-speaking patients. The course guides students to reflect on their internships in a health-related field and apply academic knowledge to work done with community health care partners in the Bocas del Toro region. It should be noted that students in this course not be involved in direct patient health care. There will be visits to health-care facilities and lectures from professionals in different areas of health care in Panama. Participants will learn specific medical vocabulary in Spanish, ask questions and provide answers in common medical situations in Spanish, conduct patient interviews, etc. in Spanish, keep a journal on their internship experience, give a final presentation on work done with community, discuss readings related to the field of health, health care and indigenous communities. 

    Global Identity

    Global Identity: Connecting Your International Experience with Your Future is an optional 1-credit online course that helps you process your international experience and apply what you've learned upon your return.  Global Identity gives you the opportunity to work individually with a trained cultural mentor, helping you articulate your newly acquired skills and differentiating you from your peers.

    This course is offered at no additional cost on programs six weeks or longer. The Learning Abroad Center will email out registration instructions, or you may contact a program team member.

    Syllabus for Global Identity (PDF)

  5. Internships

    Academic internships are an excellent way to gain professional experience while becoming more immersed in Panamanian culture. Previous Spanish language coursework is not required, but more opportunities are available for students with a background in the language. Participants can expect to work about 8–15 hours per week, and will earn 3 or 6 credits through your time at the internship combined with the Internships in Panama: A Comparative Approach to the Panamanian Workforce course.

    Internship Placements

    The following internship placements have been identified for the upcoming term, please note that some placements have a limited number of spots. If you do not see a placement that you are interested in, inquire at the Learning Abroad Center about the possibility of doing an internship in that field. Spanish language skills are not required for any of the following placements:

    Floating Doctors

    Floating Doctors interns are involved in many of the daily operations and clinics that the organization runs in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Interns assist with helping the team pack pharmacy bags for community clinics, assisting at the local nursing home, assisting with education activities with community members (such as teaching hand washing or dental hygiene), shadowing on house calls and/or patient follow up visits, scribing for the doctors, working with admin, and much more. Intern responsibilities will vary depending on Spanish language proficiency. Interns will assist with day clinics and educational activities, but will also partake in occasional three to four day overnight deployments with the Floating Doctors team to communities on islands that are an hour or more away from headquarters. Up to five placements likely available for the upcoming term.

    *Floating Doctors placements will have an additional program fee.

    Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

    Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's Bocas del Toro Research Station is a research and outreach center located in the Bocas Del Toro archipelago. Interns assist with ongoing Smithsonian research projects at the station under the supervision of andin coordination with a station scientist. Up to two placements likely available for the upcoming term

    Coral Restoration

    Coral Restoration interns can get hands-on experience while interning with a local organization focused on improving the health of our oceans. Placements available related to marine biodiversity, propagating and growing reef building coral, or growing the online presence and social media of Coral Restortation Center.

    Give and Surf

    Give and Surf works to provide sustainable empowerment to communities of Bocas del Toro, Panama, through education, self-determined community development, and positive respect of culture and traditions.

    Agriculture & Community Garden Specialist

    Work with local villages to establish community gardens. These gardens offer the local communities the opportunity to provide healthier food for their families, educate themselves on sustainable farming techniques, and also earn revenue by selling extra food at local markets. This placement is a good fit for those with a passion for agriculture or experience in developing community gardens.Moderate Spanish language ability is preferred but not required.

    Student Teacher/Assistant Teacher

    Get hands on experience leading and teaching classes for students ages 3–12. Create lesson plans, design new activities and programs. Interns may work in preschool/kindergarten classes or with after-school programs, or a mix of the two.

    Recreation and/or Sports Program Specialist 

    Share your passion for sports and recreational activities by helping to lead and plan various programs local community centers. Start a new sports league, design a teen sports clinic, and create opportunities for youth to learn new skills in a safe, fun environment. Past interns have created a swim lesson and ocean safety program, a teen girls stand up paddle mentorship program, and offered various sports clinics.

    Program Development Specialist

    Help to expand extracurricular activity offerings throughout communities in the Bocas del Toro region. This placement provides an opportunity for the intern to share their passion for a specific skill or hobby and create a program for students. Past intern projects include: marine education program, yoga classes, photography program, English classes.

    Public Service or Nonprofit Management

    Learn the ins and outs of running a nonprofit organization by assisting with the general administration of a local nonprofit organization. Interns are involved in fundraising, volunteer recruitment, program delivery, financial planning and budgeting, and other day-to-day operations.

    Social Media & Marketing Coordinator

    Work with a local nonprofit organization to help them share their stories and successes with their existing support network as well as to reach new audiences by managing and creating content for their social media accounts and exploring new social media platforms for the organization to use.


    Work with a local nonprofit organization to help them share their stories about organization ongoings, volunteer participants, and the communities that they support by documenting work through photos and videos. Interns will spend time with volunteers and community members documenting projects and daily activities.

  6. Dates & Deadlines

    Submit the online application and complete the assigned application checklist according to the appropriate deadline:
    Program Term App Open Date Deadline*
    Summer 2020 Mid-May to Mid-July 2020 Mar 1

    Contact Lindsey Lahr if you are interested in applying after the deadline.

    *Program dates are subject to change. Contact the LAC for verification of dates before purchasing your airfare.
    **If the deadline falls on a weekend, submit your materials on the following business day.

    Orientation Dates & Locations

    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 one week prior to the in-person session.

    Term Abroad Date/Time Location
    Summer 2020 TBD TBD
  7. Fees for Summer Internships in Panama

    University of Minnesota participants pay the program fee instead of on-campus tuition and fees for the term they are abroad.

    Cost of Participation for Summer 2020 is estimated between the range of $7200-$8600, finalized fees are forthcoming.

    The program fee includes housing, program administration, welcome and farewell meals, some additional meals on excursions, international health insurance, entrances to program-related excursions and site visits, airport transfers, and in-country transportation for all program related activities. Students must also budget for passport and passport photos, most meals, spending money, and miscellaneous living expenses.

    Fees or tuition from home institutions may be added to or differ from the University of Minnesota Learning Abroad Center fees listed on this page.

    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.

    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.

    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.
  8. 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 Summer 2020
    Program Name Summer Internships in Panama
    Track Name Summer Internships in Panama
    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.

    Non-University of Minnesota Student—apply

    Once you submit your application, Learning Abroad Center staff will create a University of Minnesota student internet account for you. You will use this account to access the Education Abroad Application System, and other University of Minnesota services. You will be charged a $50 application fee for this program.

    Our staff will contact you within 2–3 business days with your internet account information, and additional application instructions.


    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:

    • Statement of Purpose 

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

    If you do not meet the GPA requirement for this program you will be required to submit two additional application items—the Low GPA Essay and Special Circumstances Recommendation. Both items will be added to your checklist after you start your application, and you will be notified when they have been added.

    Application Review Process

    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.

  9. Program Contact

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

    Lindsey Lahr or call at 612.625.9370.

  10. Contact Program Alum

    Below is a list of additional students who participated in past program sessions. They are ready and willing to answer your questions about this program. Feel free to contact them during your decision-making process or anytime during your pre-departure preparation to get a student perspective.

    Evan: Studied in Panama Summer 2019, is a Health Services Management Major, and did an internship with Floating Doctors

    Megan: Studied in Panama Summer 2018; is a Biomedical Engineering Major, and did an internship with Floating Doctors