Arriving in Panama City at night, the first thing I saw were the streetlights by the ocean twinkling like stars. Amidst the anticipation, I felt a mix of excitement and nervousness. As I stepped out of the airport to board the shuttle, I was already thinking about everything we were going to do as a group. 

The first thing I saw when I woke was a group of lively green parrots and the sight of a miniature capybara-like rodent, creating a sense of wonder at Panama’s natural diversity. That’s when I took my first picture. 

Amidst the maze of buildings in Casco Viejo, I found beauty in the imperfection of the architecture. The sprawling buildings packed closely to each other made up most of the city. Even though they looked a bit old and messy, the blend of colors and rooftop areas gave the place a special charm.   

One of the best parts of the trip was practicing my Spanish. I thought I didn’t know much, but it turned out I knew more than I thought from school. Some locals spoke fast, but with help from translators, we could understand each other. I’m going to keep improving my Spanish after this trip. It’s amazing how much you can connect with people through their language. I realized that no matter the cultural differences, we all share one thing in common – humanity.  

As I prepare to return to the familiarity of home, I carry with me more than just memories; I carry an appreciation for the richness of life’s experiences. Panama City has taught me that beauty lies not in perfection, but in the raw authenticity of each moment. It’s in the imperfections—the cracked facades, the rapid speech, the cultural quirks—that we find the true essence of a place and its people. And for that, I am forever grateful.