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Panama trip teaches lessons on business

Teresa Moseley danced, dined and played this summer.

That may sound typical for a college student until you consider she danced with an indigenous Indian rainforest tribe, dined on tilapia and plantains and played on a zip line in the mountains of Panama.

Moseley, a 19-year-old Seffner resident and rising sophomore in the University of South Florida's College of Business, spent three weeks in the Central American country as part of a study abroad program. The trip included several excursions into the countryside, including a visit by canoe to the Embera tribe.

"They cooked with us and danced with us," Moseley explained. "The men wore little skirts made from beads, and the women also wore skirts that were made of cloth."

And in case you're wondering, the tilapia was very good.

The Embera tribe provided just one of the many heady experiences this Armwood High graduate enjoyed while in Panama. In El Valle, an area formed by an inactive volcano that imploded, the 12-student group viewed waterfalls, went horseback riding and took turns on an elevated zip line after hiking up a mountain.

However, the trip wasn't all fun and games. After all, this is the College of Business. The students also took a Spanish immersion class, an international business class and toured a number of businesses.

Panama is the second-largest financial center in the Western Hemisphere behind Manhattan, and it has the second-largest free trade zone in the world, according to Dr. Maria Crummett, the USF dean of International Affairs,

"This was an opportunity to get a firsthand look at globalization in action," said Crummett, who traveled with the students and taught the class in Panama. "(This was a chance) to actually see Panama, a country that is literally at the heart of what is taking place around the world.

During the class, the students discussed globalization and the practice of job outsourcing. Moseley said she has mixed feelings.

Crummett wasn't surprised because she says the firsthand exposure the students received created a "richer debate."

"The trip helped them understand and appreciate that when they graduate and they're thinking about the job market, they can't just think about Tampa or the United States," Crummett said. "It's an opportunity to think globally.

"The vision provided by countries such as Panama can't be underestimated."

Moseley wasn't sure if she could see herself working in Panama someday, but she didn't rule it out.

However, she has no uncertainty about the value of the trip or the experience of being in the college, where she spent her first year as one of the inaugural residents of the Bulls Business Community, a dorm floor composed solely of freshman business students.

She also credited Armwood's Academy of Finance for spurring her interests in business and accounting.

She puts her math skills to work in two part-time jobs: one at the USF campus recreation center and another as a Sweetbay office assistant/cashier.

"At the campus rec job, I get to do deposits and payroll," Moseley explained. "I like the challenge of accounting because if the numbers don't quite add up, I like going back through and finding it."

Moseley learned much about Panama, but also learned a little bit about life back home. "It was so much fun and it was such a learning experience," Moseley said. "Being in that environment really made me appreciate what I have here in the States."

Of course, it shouldn't take a trip to make the rest of us realize our good fortune as Americans.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper also writes a column for the Tampa Bay section. Reach him at hooper@sptimes.com or 226-3406.

Panama trip teaches lessons on business 08/07/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 13, 2008 1:27pm]
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