Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Meret, I am from Germany and I study tourism in the Netherlands. If you follow this blog, you have probably read some of my posts here. I am doing an internship with EcoCircuitos here in Panama City, and would like to share my experiences with you:
I had always been sure I wanted to do my internship abroad, preferably far away, in a place where I would not usually go. It took me quite a while to find a placement, my university considers it part of the learning process that we find our internships ourselves. Finally I came across EcoCircuitos, and it was quickly agreed that I could do my internship here.
So, on January 21st I went, off to a different world, Panama. I did not know much about the country, there was a canal there, rainforests, that was all I knew. The last weeks before I left I was apprehensive, almost hoped they would call and cancel. What on earth was I doing, going to this place I did not know anything about, I did not even speak much Spanish! But I went, and discovered the country was not at all like the images my guidebook had evoked. It is a fascinating country, Panama. Panama City is often called “the Dubai of Latin America” due to its modern skyline, its rapid development. Busy, but quite safe if you know which areas to stay out of. Finding an apartment, getting a phone, taking the bus all worked pretty much the same as back home, no great culture shock there. The rest of the country is mostly stunningly diverse nature. Beaches, Rainforest, Mountains, Plains: Name it, you will find it here. And working in tourism gave me the perfect chance to learn about all of it and explore it extensively.
But, to get to the point of things: My internship. EcoCircuitos is a Panamanian-owned inbound tour operator focusing on luxury and sustainable travel. My main focus of work, as it turned out, was to be marketing, especially on social media. My favorite task from the beginning was writing articles for this blog, which I do about twice per week. Another thing I learned to love was managing the new Pinterest account.
I got asked to participate in a marketing campaign, asking hotels to sign up for a program that would result in our company representing them strongly on trade fairs. I prepared trade fairs, WTM Latin America and ITB Berlin, contacted people to meet us there, arranging appointments, following up afterwards. We were preparing to launch a new website, so every hotel, every tour we offer needed to be described, to be illustrated with appropriate pictures, a lot of writing went into that as well…
I went along on tours, saw how the different guides handled the different clients and and learned a great deal about Panama that way. Currently, I am working to establish connections with community support programs in the country, to see how our clients and we can contribute to their work.
Many of these projects I was asked to do. Some of them I wanted to do. I learned early on in my internship that I had to ask for things, show I wanted work, and to make sure it was noticed what I was doing. I got into quite a few arguments with my boss, but we also had many times when we came up with great ideas together. She challenged me, to do more, to do better, it was not always easy, but certainly worth it. I learned a lot, not only about tourism, but about being clear about my needs. I feel far more confident about my future now, about my skills, my ability to work in this line of business.
On the weekends, I travel. I explore Panama and every weekend I am again astonished how versatile this country is. Every place I visit is so different from the places I have visited before, but all of them are amazingly beautiful. The people are friendly, in many places they are still happy to meet a foreigner, curious to find out what I am doing there. And the country was easy to figure out, there is a great public transport system all over the country, public spaces have internet, the city is modern and has everything I could ever need (Even German restaurants in case I feel I need a touch of home). Sometimes I am amazed to realize how familiar this country feels, after only four months, at other times I end up being astonished that time went by so quickly, and there is still so much I have not seen…
My time in Panama is almost over, in four weeks I will finish my internship. I faced challenges, found myself outside my comfort zone quite a few times, and found amazing things happening there. I did learn a lot about my profession here, but I learned more about myself, about my world. Sitting here, writing this while watching an Iguana climb through the trees in front of the office window, I feel how lucky I am to have had the chance to do this.
By Meret Schueschke
Learn more about internships at EcoCircuitos here