One more Panamanian girl

Ara Johnson is one of the teachers from Panama studying at Tulane for the Panama Billengüe program.

Courtesy of Ara Johnson

Ara Johnson is one of the teachers from Panama studying at Tulane for the Panama Billengüe program.

I am a Panamanian teacher in the United States to study a language program for eight weeks at Tulane University in New Orleans. My colleagues and I are from the Republic of Panama, a Central American country. Our government has sent us abroad to improve our English speaking and teaching techniques.

The name of this program is Panama Bilingüe, and it was started in 2015 under current President Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez aiming to make Panama a bilingual country. Since then, thousands of teachers and students of the education field for English have gone on exchange programs in countries such as Canada, United Kingdom Bahamas, and the United States.

“The Panamá Bilingüe Program is the most ambitious language education policy in the world right now, perhaps ever,” Robert Connor, Ph.D. administrative faculty and director of English for academic and professional purposes and English as a second language, said.

Within the United States, around 20 universities have been chosen to participate in this program, including Tulane.

“This is the Harvard of the South,” José Barrios Ng, a representative of the Panamá Bilingüe Program, said when asked why he chose Tulane out of all the American universities.

I am so glad that I have come to study in such a prestigious university. From the academic program, my favorite part is the school visits. I have observed five classes at Lafayette Academy Charter School, and those two hours per week of my life are some of those most enriching moments of my professional career. Now, I have augmented my ideas and techniques about teaching in general that I want to share with my colleagues back in Panama.

On the other hand, the cultural life of New Orleans is so diversified. The food is similar to Panama’s, just a bit spicier, the music, scenes and people are fantastic. If you want to have fun, buy some souvenirs, listen to music, see the tone of people, just go to Bourbon Street or the French Quarter. Your senses experience so many things that your feet do not even feel the sore that you have walked for hours. Just go there, walk, live and talk to people because you may never encounter them again.

“New Orleans and Tulane are part of my life story already,” my colleague in the program Yorlenis Moreno said. “… I can’t wait to come back to Panama and put into practice in my own school what I have learned in here.”

Those are the moments and experiences that I keep in my heart forever about Tulane University and New Orleans.         

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