— Here are my final thoughts —
This internship has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I accomplished far more than I thought I would and learned more than I bargained for. I met amazing people and made useful connections in the reforestation world and beyond. Now that I have this experience, it gives me a better idea of which careers I would like to explore in the future. Looking back on the experience I am extremely grateful for everyone that supported and helped me in my work.
Coming into this internship, I did not expect to be working by myself as much as I did. I was the only intern working on the Eco-Artisan Project. As a procrastinator, deadlines and structure are my best friends. I cannot count the number of times I have started a project on my own and failed to finish it due to lack of motivation. So, I can tell you that my first few weeks were a challenge when I had no deadlines and only a vague to-do list to work with. However, by the end of my internship, I am more confident in my ideas and work. I am able to follow through with my tasks. I learned to ask for help when I need it. I have become more creative and a better problem solver. I am thankful to have been challenged and changed throughout my internship.
With that said, I accomplished all my goals and more. As I said, I did not expect to be working by myself, rather I thought I would be assisting other workers for the Eco-Artisan Project. I completed three of the deliverables, the map, guide, and 500 artisanal plants, that will be sent to National Geographic for the grant update. For the map, I designed and planned the way it would be created and mapped. Throughout the internship, I planted around 300 artisanal plants in our nursery. Using my knowledge from planting, speaking with artisans, and some research, I created a guide which explains how to grow, cultivate, and harvest all the artisanal plants I worked with. I did far more than I had expected and I am thankful for all the knowledge I gained throughout the process.
I loved doing this work with the Azuero Earth Project and it makes me think I will want to do something similar in the future. I got a lot of experience and interaction with the science side of sustainability, specifically research. I talked and worked with a lot of people who are invested in the science world. I would like to get more experience doing scientific research to see if it is something I would enjoy. I hope to explore more careers in the same way I have done here.
One thing I know for sure is that I love working abroad and in international environments. By far, my favorite part of the experience, was the people. I worked with people from all over the world: France, Belgium, Spain, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, the United States, and of course Panama. Everyone comes from a different culture and brings a different story to the table. It creates a rich environment, ripe for learning, sharing, and experiencing together. In the future, I hope to work abroad and experience new cultures just like I did here.
Lastly, I love living in Panamanian culture and slowly learning the way of the people. Panamanians (at least the rural ones) live a slow life, taking it one moment at a time. Every morning, I would walk to the bakery to buy my chocolate croissant, passing my neighbors sitting on their porch, talking, laughing, and living. I quickly learned that it is custom to say “buenas!” to everyone you pass. I love that. Sometimes it feels like I am friends with all of Pedasi. And I have learned, as my favorite neighbor, Oz, always tells me, “Dale, no pares! Baila y no pares de bailar,” or “Go ahead, don’t stop! Dance and don’t stop dancing!”. And though he may have meant it literally, wanting me to keep dancing to his eternal electronic club music, it still has meaning. Keep enjoying life. It might be difficult sometimes. But you only have the present moment, so you might as well dance because you can.