Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cuba: Havana

Sharon Almonte '14

 What is your major?
 I am double majoring in History and Hispanic Studies, and minoring in Latin American Studies.

Why did you decide to study abroad?   
 I decided to study abroad to challenge myself and to get a new perspective on the world outside of the United States.

Why did you choose Cuba? 
 I chose Cuba because I wanted to study in a place where I would usually be unable to visit, and because I wanted to get first-hand experience of a communist country. 

What was your living situation like? 
The living situation in Cuba is a bit different than the other programs because the only way that Cubans can have foreigners stay in their homes is by renting rooms to them. My living situation was wonderful because the home where I stayed was owned by an elderly couple who treated my roommates and I like their children. I was lucky enough to live in a home where there were two rooms, and four of us could stay there. We were served breakfast daily for a minimal price, we ate lunch at school, and we ate out for dinner. Hot water was a luxury that was mostly unavailable in our home, but you just learned to make do.

Highlights/challenges of the program   
 A challenge with the program was getting used to the organization of the classroom. I am used to having discussions in the classroom rather than simply being lectured. Our professors mostly lectured and did not leave much room for discussion. Because of the lack of resources in Cuba, things were not always available; you might have the money, but you don't always have access to the things you want. A highlight of the program was the overall opportunity to live in Havana and experience the day-to-day life of a Cuban. I can now say that I know what the life of a typical Cuban is, and I can also navigate my way in Cuba if I ever returned. 

Advice you wish you had been given before going on your program 

 Cuba runs on its own time and there were times I needed to be reminded of that. People in Cuba just adapt to the situations, and that is a concept I had to learn, particularly when I went to a restaurant and the food I ordered was no longer available. There were many instances like this, and I think that anybody traveling to Cuba definitely needs to know that things run differently in Cuba. 

Additional comments?   
 I truly had an amazing experience in Cuba and I wish to return some day.

If you have any questions about the Cuba program, you can ask past participants at the Ask An Alum Moodle page by clicking this link.

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