ISP Dolphin Maria Antonia Vergara Sets 3 New National Free Diving Records

What year did you graduate from ISP?

I graduated in 2006 and attended ISP since I was in pre-k!


After leaving ISP where did you go on to study? 

After finishing school I took a year off.

I went to Europe Germany to learn German for around 6 months and then returned to Panama to compete in the annual Cayuco Ocean to Ocean Race. After that, I went to Argentina where I started as a Communications major at the Universidad de San Andres. That year we had an unfortunate family tragedy as my younger brother passed away and it was a definite change of plans. I dropped out of university in Argentina and decided to go to the Andes University in Bogotá, Colombia where I majored in Anthropology.


Did you pursue the IB? or Certificates?

I did my IB Diploma. English A2, Spanish A1 and Art HL. Environmental Systems, Math Studies, and History SL.


How do you feel ISP helped prepared you for higher education?

More than higher education I think ISP just prepared me for life. For being open, inquisitive, respectful and always trying to have a global view on subjects or problems.


What is your fondest memory of ISP?

I don’t think I have one special memory, I remember my years in school as the best years! I mean I got to hang out with my friends all day…somehow all the “stressful” things like the extended essay, or studying for IB exams have been erased from my memory. All I have are good things.  I think being a part of PANAMUN and THIMUN was definitely a highlight of ISP and something that definitely shaped my interest to travel, explore and meet people from across the world. I don’t think I would be living halfway across the world if it weren’t for my years in ISP.


What do you do now? 

I currently live in Bali, Indonesia. Two years ago I left Panama and a very good job in the film industry to travel for a few months. The idea was to get my masters degree in the UK afterward. But life happened, a I did not receive the scholarship I was hoping. I then realized my main goal was to just live abroad so I decided to travel for a bit longer. I had experience working in outdoor education (summer camps) growing up and realized it’s an industry here in Asia which allowed me to work and travel to amazing places in Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, and Indonesia. Currently, I am working online for Colegio Jacaranda (in Panama) doing their marketing and communications, and am a freelance outdoor education instructor as well as a freediving instructor. I just spent my summer in Fiji working with high schoolers doing marine conservation programs which allowed me to share my love for the ocean with inspiring students. In conclusion, I’m living a crazy life I never expected but always wanted to have.


You recently achieved an important record. What was it like training to do this?

This week I participated in my 2nd freediving competition. Last year I set National Records in two freediving disciplines and this year I set 3 new ones, the deepest one being to 50m.

Freediving is an amazing activity and sport to do. It is about controlling your mind, emotions, and reading your body and thoughts. It involves getting to know yourself very well, and accept that you can only control your mind and reaction to things that can happen. It’s basically applicable to all aspects of life and since doing my level 1 in 2017 I was addicted!

Training in freediving means eating healthy, getting very good rest, and spending most of your weekdays in the water – I mean, doesn’t it sound perfect?


This year I signed up for the competition with only 3 weeks to train. I had been in Fiji for 2 months and then in Spain for 2 weeks when I received the email to participate said to myself, “why not?” It was very surprising to see what my body was able to do in such a short time coming back underwater. I am very curious to keep training and exploring my limits because all my dives in the competition felt very comfortable and easy. Hopefully, I will be competing next April in Mexico.


What advice do you have for adventure-seeking ISP Dolphins?

Just go for it! It is so easy to live in fear…what if I run out of money? What if I get lost? What if I don’t like this decision I made? It’s best to go for it, learn from it and keep moving than to sit around and wonder what could have been. Leaving your comfort zone is scary but its where all the magic happens and you’d be surprised to realize that once you take that first step you’re definitely not alone and so many of us are in that adventure-seeking path. Being an ISP Alumni means you have various tools and skills that will be useful in any area of work you might be getting into, just trust yourself!


Also, if you’re interested in freediving don’t hesitate in contacting me. I will be giving courses between Dec-March in Panama and it is a very small community so if you’re living abroad just text me and I am sure I can find someone near you.


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