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Bearcats on the Road

Snorkeling in Bocas del Toro

Posted by Abby Bryant on Tue, Jan 14, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

Looking for a fun way to explore the neighboring islands, my dad and I decided to spend our last day in Bocas del Toro on a snorkeling trip. Though I could tell dad was a little hesitant about this last minute adventure, I assured him he´d be glad he did. And wouldn´t you know it, I was right!

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Topics: Peace Corps, Panama, Volunteer Abroad, Abby Bryant

Thanksgiving in Panama

Posted by Abby Bryant on Tue, Dec 10, 2013 @ 03:18 PM

This year Thanksgiving came with a different feeling for me. Since moving to Panama nearly six months ago, so many of my previous thoughts and beliefs have been challenged, and my eyes have been opened tremendously. 

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Topics: Thanksgiving, Peace Corps, Panama, Abby Bryant

Settling in and Getting Started as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Posted by Abby Bryant on Tue, Dec 03, 2013 @ 10:18 PM

Sometimes, time goes by so slow here that two years seems like an unfathomable amount of time. Other times, I realize that I’ve been in my site for three months and am approaching six months in country, and I don’t know where the time has gone!

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Topics: Peace Corps, Panama, Volunteer Abroad, Abby Bryant

Lessons Learned during my First Month in the Peace Corps

Posted by Abby Bryant on Wed, Oct 09, 2013 @ 04:00 PM
  1. When speaking Spanish, “fake it ‘till you make it.”  When speaking the local indigenous language, give your sweetest southern smile and cross your fingers they understand your Spanish. 
  2. Regarding food, America is as good as it gets.  Though the local rice/beans/meat/bananas dish is pretty good, living in the country means pretty much nothing except boiled green bananas, and occasionally rice or chicken.  And obviously, nothing can replace Chick-fil-a or the Shack’s Can’t Leave ‘Em Alone bars. 
  3. Panama has incredible eco-diversity.  In my village alone I’ve seen sloths, toucans, poison dart frogs, and tons of other animals.  We live in a protected forest, and thankfully the locals are both proud and protective of their natural resources. 
  4. English is really, really hard to explain, and teaching is hard work.  After lesson planning, class time, and evaluations, I have so much more respect for people who have the gift (and job) of teaching!
  5. Rural Panama reminds me of what I picture 1950’s America to be like.  Everyone knows everyone, and you should expect to have a conversation with anyone you may pass during your commute. 
  6. While kids can sometimes be annoying, they also will generally be the first to become friends with you, and will share a wealth of local knowledge… like where the snakes live. 
  7. It’s really hard to go from a 19 hour semester with two jobs to life as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  When there’s work, there’s a lot of work, but when there’s not, there’s a hammock.  You should invest in a good hammock. 
  8. After living with the locals, you will feel both incredibly grateful for what you have, and probably even a little ashamed of the wastefulness of Americans.  We truly are so blessed to have been born into what foreigners seem to see as the land of plenty. 
  9. Having a pet makes somewhere foreign feel a bit more like home.  Thanks to my host family, I now have a 1 month old puppy named Massy, and people have already started asking if he’s going to be going home with me in two years.
  10. Long days, especially those in which there isn’t work to do, will make you feel sad, lonely, and homesick.  Thankfully, the locals will also feed you way too much, treat you like their own family, and make sure that you feel welcomed.  So far, life as a Peace Corps Volunteer has a nice way of balancing itself out.  
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Topics: Peace Corps, Panama, Volunteer Abroad, Abby Bryant

I'm an Official Peace Corps Volunteer!

Posted by Abby Bryant on Wed, Aug 28, 2013 @ 04:33 PM
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Topics: Peace Corps, Panama, Volunteer Abroad, Abby Bryant

They Pray for Me

Posted by Abby Bryant on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 @ 03:15 PM

After nearly a year and a half of torturous waiting, I finally found out that I’ll be spending the next two years working in a small indigenous community in Bocas del Toro, Panama and I couldn’t be more excited. My community members grow cocoa, coffee, and bananas and my primary responsibilities will be to help them improve their products, identify buyers, establish contracts, and teach basic business and financial management skills. I’ll also be working to support a women’s artisan group, improve community gardens, potentially start a small agro-tourism project,  and facilitate English/ngäbere language classes (English for them and ngäbere for me!)

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Topics: Peace Corps, Panama, Abby Bryant

Technical Training Week in the Comarca, Panama

Posted by Abby Bryant on Fri, Aug 09, 2013 @ 09:51 AM

As part of our two month long training, our group recently attended Tech week, a weeklong intensive agricultural training session at a Peace Corps site in the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé. 

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Topics: Peace Corps, Panama, Volunteer Abroad, Abby Bryant

A Volunteer Visit in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Posted by Abby Bryant on Tue, Jul 09, 2013 @ 09:07 AM

As part of the Peace Corps Panama Pre-Service Training Program, each future volunteer is matched with a current volunteer in their sector and then spends a week with them getting to know what life is like as a volunteer.  


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Topics: Peace Corps, Panama, Volunteer Abroad, Abby Bryant

My First Week in Panama

Posted by Abby Bryant on Mon, Jul 01, 2013 @ 01:52 PM
After a quick pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C., I flew to Panama with a group of about 50 future volunteers who will be going through training with me.  As the 73rd set of volunteers to be sent to Panama, we make up Panama Group 73 and I am already amazed by how incredibly intelligent, diverse, and compassionate everyone is.  
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Topics: Peace Corps, Panama, Volunteer Abroad, Abby Bryant

Pre-Service Training

Posted by Abby Bryant on Mon, Jul 01, 2013 @ 09:39 AM
Before I can be sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer (which will happen in August!)I have to go through a pretty intense 9 week training program referred to as PST (Pre-Service Training). Though there’s no way we can learn everything we need to know for the next two years, PST is filled with language classes, technical training, field trips, and other random training sessions to provide us with a pretty solid foundation.

Monday-Friday I have classes and training sessions, while the weekends are kept open for field trips, additional training, and an occasional off day. Almost nobody here speaks English, so we have four hours of Spanish each day. Four hours of class sounds like a lot, especially for a newly graduated 22 year old, but it´s actually really awesome. My 3 classmates and I have class on a neighbor´s porch and spend the time chatting about random topics and doing assignments that really help make life in a Spanish speaking country easier.

We also have technical training, where we spend the other half of the day learning about Panamanian agriculture and agribusiness. So far it´s been really interesting; today I even got to eat raw sugarcane from our garden! Next week (Week 2) I’ll be spending four days shadowing a volunteer who works on a cacao plantation in a gorgeous region called Bocas del Toro, which I doubt I could be anymore excited about. Then during week 4 we’ll be traveling back to Bocas del Toro as a group for Technical Week, during which we’ll get to practice all of the agriculture techniques we’ve been learning. We’ll also get specialized training in the production, management, and business of specific Panamanian staple crops like coffee, cacao, and plantains.

Finally, after hearing our site placements (where we will be working for the next two years!) in Week 6, we’ll each spend week 7 getting to know our future co-workers, host families, and community members in whatever village we´ve been assigned to. After that we’ll have another week of training in our current village, a week to wrap up everything in Panama City, and it will be time to be sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers!
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Topics: Peace Corps, Panama, Volunteer Abroad, Abby Bryant

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In Bearcats on the Road, students chronicle their lives while studying abroad or completing internships away from campus.

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Paige Casario

Paige Casario is a junior International Business major with minors in Spanish and Operational Excellence. She is studying Business and Spanish and living with a host family in Sevilla, Spain, for the spring semester. She is very excited for this opportunity and experience and can't wait to venture all over Spain and Europe.

Nicole Reitz

Hi! My name is Nicole Reitz and I’m a junior psychology major at SVC. This spring, I’m studying at Edge Hill University in England.

Gianna Boburka

Hi! My name is Gianna Boburka. I am an international business major with minors in operational excellence and entrepreneurship. I will be studying abroad in Thessaloniki, Greece, this summer for five weeks. In addition to taking two classes abroad, I will be exploring many different sites around Greece.

Theresa Thimons








Theresa Thimons is a sophomore majoring in mathematics. She is the proud little sister to nine siblings and aunt to seventeen nieces and nephews. Theresa believes that each encounter she has with another human is an opportunity to better understand the heart of Jesus, as every person is the result of God’s love. In whatever career path she ends up taking, she looks forward to solving problems and hopefully inspiring more people to explore the world of fun that is found in math.

Sam Geer







My name is Sam Geer. I’m from Murrysville, Pennsylvania, and I’m a junior at Saint Vincent. I’m getting my major in Environmental Science and minoring in Public Administration. I’m a work study at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve and am a member of the Benedictine Leadership Studies Program. This summer, I'll be traveling to Bhutan in the Himalayas of Central Asia, home of the bearcat, where I’ll be studying environmental sustainability and Bhutanese culture. 

Gabrielle Kohl












Hi! Im Gabrielle Kohl, an avid reader who loves to travel around the world! I love to experience new culture, literature, people and food. I aim to make a positive impact in the lives of people with whom I interact in order to make the world a happier place.

Nicole Berry











Hi! My name is Nicole Berry and I am currently a junior studying communication and psychology. I also am minoring in children studies. I am a commuter and currently live in Delmont, PA. I am hoping to graduate in May 2017 and go on to graduate school for my Masters in Social Work and Juris Doctorate.

Anastasia Jaeger








Anastasia Jaeger is a junior English education major with a minor in German and a minor in peace and justice. She has always dreamed of being able to travel around the world and is thankful that Saint Vincent College has these opportunities available to students. When she is not at college, she is likely working her part-time job at a local bakery. In the future, she hopes to travel more and do humanitarian work or teach high school students English.