Panamá will be the second interim class I have taken abroad. The summer after my freshman year I took the French Conversation in Paris class. Needless to say, Paris was amazing and I would return there in a heartbeat. The “class” part was really morning reviews of what we would have learned in earlier classes as well as discussions about what we did the day before and what we were going to do that day. The class mostly consisted of trips around Paris and sometimes the outlying areas. We lived very centrally in Paris on Rue de Sèvres across from Le Bon Marché. It was amazing to go out every day and see a new part of Paris.
Obviously, a class like this all depends on previous experiences with the French language, as well as your willingness to become part of a new culture. I have to say many of my classmates seemed uncomfortable with their French and would often shy away from using it out of embarrassment. If I had one piece of advice it would be to immerse yourself as much as possible! Trust me, everyone knows you are not French, but if you really try to speak the language as best you can and are polite most people will find you endearing…and then switch to English. Also, the best parts of Paris are the places most people could not find if they were only there for one week. Yes, the famous monuments are amazing and you should visit them (I mean, who wants to say they lived in Paris for three weeks and never went to the top of l’Arc de Triomphe?) But some of the best memories I have are going to little restaurants late at night with just a few friends and trying to see if we could get the waiter to believe we were really Parisian, or making a midnight picnic on the lawn under the Eiffel Tower. This is where you will meet people who not only are friendly, but will also most likely strike up a conversation with you, and tell you about even better places to go! Being in one city for three weeks allows you to see everything that interests you. For example, a tiny museum on the outskirts of Paris was having a show on Balenciaga and Comme des Garçons that I would definitely not have been able to see on a normal tourist trip. I don’t know if I have ever been more proud of myself than after I realized I could walk the streets of Paris without a map (it was the central part of Paris, but still).
Study abroad programs during the summer and winter are really amazing, especially if there is anything stopping you from studying abroad for an entire semester or year. Also, the classes are much more relaxed and give you a feeling of the city that I think compares to spending a whole semester there but having more classes.