International Study Program: Location
Over the course of 25 days they will be engaged in explorations and conversations with Cuban’s of all backgrounds. They will have presentations from Cuban government officials, as well as US diplomats. They will learn about social issues with women’s and youth organizations, perform community service with farmers, and learn Cuban cultural traditions from musicians, dance troops, and Afro-Cuban griots.
Throughout their time in Cuba, our staff and members will be exploring the realities of life for Cubans. Cuba has been praised as a country of equality guided by a revolutionary socialist vision, with education and health indicators that rival the world’s wealthiest nations. However critics point to human rights abuses and limited freedoms that contrast the benefits of socialism.
Throughout their journey our members will explore questions, including: What is life like within a socialist society? How are issues of poverty, race, gender and religion played out differently? How does education, health care and housing compare? What are the pros & cons of each system of government?
This summer’s ISP will allow our members to explore the history, culture and politics of this nation first hand, enabling them to develop a broad understanding of Cuba and establish their own educated opinions.
When I arrived to the airport my luggage went 15 pounds over so I had to pay extra, and I left my jacket in the car so I froze on the plane. What a morning huh? Despite my difficult morning I was glad to see everyone & glad that we went through customs pretty quickly. Being that I’ve been on planes before this flight was nothing.
I slept through the whole flight without any interruptions. When we landed in Cuba I found it offensive that they asked everyone “have we been to Africa”. I thought it was racist to make assumptions about the entire continent because of the viruses and diseases that are going around in certain countries.
Also, Africa isn’t the only place with these problems so they should have been more cautious about their assumptions. Overall, today was a very chill day. I expect to really begin my trip tomorrow and I really look forward to what’s coming up. ISP never disappoints…
Taking pictures in front of Che felt really empowering. It was a good feeling for me since I’m a member of the Liberation Program. Dinner was my favorite part of the day because we actually walked to our restaurant so we got a feel for the neighborhood we are staying in.
As the conversation continued, three interesting topics were brought up: 1) education & employment, 2) the election process, and 3) racism. We discussed fifteen years olds already deciding their future careers, elections beginning with community elected candidates, and the government working to erase two hundred years of political and economical racial discrimination. Here I thought Cuba was suffering under the weight of the embargo, but more than fifty years have passed and the people have discovered ways to benefit the country as a whole. The second person we visited was an economist who was brought to teach us about the economics of Cuban history. However we learned much more than just that.
We gained the personal perspective of someone who lived through the “special period”; the national economic collapse which lasted throughout the 90’s. what happened in Cuba was caused not only by the collapse of the Soviet Union, but also the embargo that the United States purposely orchestrated to keep the country from rising in power.
The next activity was salsa dancing lessons, which I highly enjoyed with my partner. It helped take my mind off my personal problems. I learned that Cubans have everlasting energy and that I barely have any. I learned that my bro/sis family can dance but are too shy at times. I feel blessed to be in Cuba at this moment in my life. This trip is going to help me find myself and who I want to be when I return.
It’s teaching me to deal with a scarce amount of necessities without complaining. I feel as though the country has a natural beauty and its people are happy with what they have. I wish New Yorkers were this way. My fondest memory of today would have to be learning to dance salsa. I am now looking forward to dinner and the ceremony later on tonight.
The museum opened my eyes to many kinds of art. The last event of the day involved the visit to San Carlos de la Cabana Fortress for the traditional Cannon Shot Ceremony. They shot the cannon off 9pm, which was very scary yet exciting. We were also able to go around & look at various items that were being sold after the cannon shot.
I bought a Cuban instrument. Today was an eventful day I enjoyed & appreciated every activity. I’m going to make the most out of everyday here in Cuba and hope to have a great experience. There is more to ISP than just learning about a country, this is a chance to step out your comfort zone, learn about a new culture & explore not only the country but yourself.
After lunch we went for a swim in the river. At that moment, I was convinced to open up to all the experiences on ISP, so instead of sitting on the side of the river and getting a little splash, I decided to jump all the way in and experience the moment with everyone else.
It started to occur to me, at that moment in the San Juan river, how much privilege I have and this opportunity to swim in a river with my peers may never come again in my lifetime. As I sit here and write in this journal, I’m thinking how will I allow this experience to change the person I am, because it should have a major affect on my thinking and who I truly am becoming.