After over a week of a jam-packed itinerary, it’s surreal that we’ve finally arrived at our last few plans. The GLCM group trekked to the campus of our hosts, Quality Leadership University (QLU), located in the heart of Panama City. There, we received a presentation about Panama as an international business hub. We learned that they have a unique program where investing a certain amount in property grants you permanent residency – part of a strategy to bolster the economy of the nation. We snapped a quick group photo and made our way to a networking event with some of the QLU students.
This opportunity to chat with students our age from Latin America was definitely a highlight of the trip! I had the opportunity to talk to Joaquin, who was finishing up his MBA here in Panama with the goal of starting his own business in Madrid. We talked about everything, from our life goals to common fruits that grow in our hometowns. It was great to hear about Panama from the perspective of another student that wants to explore the world.
I then talked to a student who is looking to apply to an econometrics Ph.D. program in the US soon, as well as a professional engineer who runs a multinational residential construction firm. They were both really passionate about their fields and I learned a lot about life in Panama as a whole. Hopefully, our paths cross again in the near future on a cool job site or even at U of I. We finished up the networking, chowed down on some snacks, and then left to get ready for a farewell dinner. We went to dinner with Oscar, the president of QLU, as well as Melvis our bus driver and Luis our tour guide. At the restaurant, a traditional Panamanian dance show was included with the dinner.
It’s safe to say that this dinner and show experience was a first for all of us! The dancers took us on a journey to the various regions of Panama through traditional dance and even invited a few of us to join them on stage.
It was interesting to see the blend of European and native influences on the dance. For example, the women were dressed in a typical Latin American long skirt that almost served as a prop during the dance, which is likely a remnant of Spanish colonialism in this area. Later, however, men came on stage dressed in bright extravagant masks that were thought to scare away evil spirits. Our guides, Luis and Maria, were telling us that learning these traditional dances is part of the elementary school curriculum in Panama, so he was able to tell us a little bit about some of the history. Overall, we all had an amazing dinner, got to see a timeless art form performed right in front of us, and said goodbye to our Panamanian friends.
And just like that…our Panama trip comes to a bittersweet end. We will all miss the exciting adventures, new discoveries, and kind people from this short trip. If you’re a Panama City native reading this, thank you so much for making our trip so memorable!
Blog by Nathan Finkelshteyn