Panama Field Study


Credit Course (2018): SPAN 251.3 – The Spanish of Latin Americans


There is no better way to understand the Spanish of Latin Americans than by traveling to Latin America yourself! This St. Thomas More College study abroad offers students the unique opportunity to learn about Latin American Spanish by traveling to communities in and around la Cordillera de Talamanca, the interior mountain range in Panama.

We invite students to live with host families in Santa Fe, Veraguas, Panama, and learn about the unique revolutionary history of Cooperativa la Esperanza de los Campesinos, one of the largest non-capitalist cooperatives in Central America. Students will meet with some of the cooperative’s founders, observe small-scale sustainable sugar, coffee, and rice production, and drink coffee that was grown and roasted within walking distance of the house in which they are staying.

Using an experiential learning model, this 3 credit unit course will help students understand the colonial history and contemporary reality of the Spanish language in Latin America. Rather than working in a classroom in Panama, students take the majority of this course’s instruction in Saskatoon for 3 weeks with Dr. Allison Smith. Students then immerse themselves in the language and culture of interior Panama for 2 weeks, living with families in the town of Santa Fe. There, representatives of La Federacion de Campesinos Hacia El Progreso, a cooperative in the Dominican Republic, will join them. This will give students the opportunity to compare Mesoamerican and Caribbean dialects of Spanish.

Program Highlights

  • Understand the steps of making coffee from cultivation to cup
  • Learn about the roots of cooperativism in Latin America
  • Visit an old-style Finca, (El Sendero el mas Bellaco), to understand traditional modes of Panamanian agriculture
  • Natural phenomena: hiking through rainforests, visiting a waterfall, optional tubing down Rio Mulaba
  • Visit to Guabal, an Indigenous community in the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca (equivalent to an Indigenous reserve)
  • Learn about small-scale organic rice and sugar production
  • Optional trip to climb Cerro Tuté, a local mountain landmark
  • Free day in Panama City to explore Casco Viejo (the old colonial city) or the Panama Canal, or whatever catches your interest!

Course Description

SPAN 251.3 What is the difference between the Spanish spoken in Spain and the mother tongue of more than 193 million speakers in Latin America? Are the distinctions merely an accent change due to geography or are there other social factors at play? Latin American Spanish provides an overview of the linguistic variation found in Latin American Spanish. Core topics include the concept of language variation, the fundamental dissimilarities between Peninsular and American Spanish (including the use of usted, voseo, seseo and yeísmo), the indigenous and African contributions and social variation within the continent.
Note: Successful Completion of SPAN 114 or a 100 level Linguistics class is recommended, but not required.

Program Coordinator

Caitlin Ward
Engaged Learning Office
STM 146D               


  • U of S tuition: approx. $615 per 3 credit unit (individual registration and payment)
  • Program fee for course: TBD
  • Accommodation: included
  • Meals: included (except for free days in Panama City)
  • Airfare: approx. $800
  • On-site transportation: included
  • Other costs (travel and medical insurance; personal expenses, etc.,) Varies per person