International Study Program: Cuba

This year our International Study Program (ISP) visited Cuba for the second time. Throughout the month of July, 13 members and three staff travel from one end of the island to the other, visiting Havana, Vinales, Matanzas, Playa Larga, Villa Clara, Santa Clara, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, and Holguin. This summer’s ISP allowed 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.

Over the course of 26 days they engaged in explorations and conversations with Cubans of all backgrounds. They learned about social issues with women’s and youth organizations, learned about urban gardening in Cuba, explored the country’s health care system, performed community service, and learned Cuban cultural traditions from musicians, dance troops, and Afro-Cuban griots.

Throughout their time in Cuba, our staff and members explored the realities of life for Cubans – its complicated and contradictory history and reality. Together they grappled with these contradictions by witnessing the on-ground reality with their own eyes and engaging with a host of locals, educators, organizers, and artists. Throughout their journey members explored questions like: 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?


Throughout the course of their time in Cuba, each youth member will contribute to a Group Journal that becomes a record of each day’s activities and the meaningful insights acquired while studying and living overseas. Below are some of those journal entries, which we will update periodically during their trip.

Cuba Day 25 – Climbing a mountain

Today was a very interesting day. My body was all over the place and we went to go climb a mountain. Climbing a mountain was one of the best activities of the day, the 460 steps helped ease my mind a lot. That's one thing I'm going to miss about Cuba is being at ease....

Cuba Day 24 – Singing and dancing in Santiago

It’s been a long journey since we came here, and toured and studied the country. I have learned so much during my travel. I learned that Afro Cubans had a great impact on Cuban history which is not talked a lot in history books. Afro Cubans had a great impact on...

Cuba Day 23 – Afro-Cuban History

Today we learned more about Afro-Cuban history from two very successful Afro-Cuban women. We learned about the Cuban slaves from a professor and an actress. I liked how the actress gave us a background of her life and we learned about how she grew up and the things...

Cuba Day 22 – Art all day

It’s been a long month so far surrounded by all these people. Today we were able to do some community work. We went to the ICAP headquarters in Santiago de Cuba. They weren’t doing any big projects, they were just cleaning up. We helped them move palm leaves that had...

Cuba Day 21 – Making Music

Today was great. First we went to the Santa ifigenia Cemetery. It held the resting places of not only the people’s family members but also famous presidents and people who went down in history. Also, every 30 minutes they had Cuban armed forces doing small marches to...

Cuba Day 20 – Ironic

Today was a slow day. We had a 12 hour bus ride from Trinidad to Santiago de Cuba. It was pretty boring. Not much to say about the trip. A lot of sleeping and reflecting as well as watching movies. We watched The Green Book, Fighting with My Family and half of House...

Cuba Day 19 – Sugar cane and the beach

The day started off really interesting due to the fact I woke up early and on time. I woke up for breakfast and early enough to take a morning shower to start off a good day. The activity we were going to do was go up a tower that was used to call the slaves in the...

Cuba Day 12 – Trains, Che, El Mejunje Youth Club

After eating breakfast at ICAP, we went and saw the old trains at the armored train site where soldiers used to transport military weapons and personal materials. We also went and saw the monument of Che and other soldiers who fought with him to liberate Cuba. Che is...

Cuba Day 11 – Visiting a Clinic

The second half arisesAs our journey begins Trees of all sizesPass us byIn a three hour drive A rainbowNot in the skyBut arrangedUpon the outside wallOf houses With the sun shining perfectlyYellow and plumpLeading to sweatDripping vigorously Check upAnd visitsTo...

Cuba Day 10 – Grateful

This is my first time out the country and I have been enjoying myself incredibly. Throughout these last ten days I’ve learned so much about myself as a person. To whoever is reading this thank you for giving me the opportunity to be able to travel to another country...

Cuba Day 8 – Cuba is not what I thought it would be

This is my first ISP and so far and my knowledge of Cuba has grown. I used to think that Cuba was a run down,rat infested, and third world country. Now I know that Cuba is a beautiful country that is trying to thrive even though the USA embargo is holding a tight grip...

Cuba Day 7 – With knowledge comes responsibility

This being my second ISP, I have really been able to find myself through various experiences that I have had encountered throughout the time being. From salsa dancing to horse back riding, I have done things that I thought I would never be doing a day in my life. The...

Cuba Day 6 – Staying with Fidel (not that one)

Now we have began our second week of Cuba and so far it has been great. I have done many things that I have never done before. I finally went to my first beach and went horseback riding. Surprisingly, I was able to handle the horse quite well. I was able to take...

Cuba Day 5 – Organic Farming, Presentations, Ups and Downs

The week has gone by really fast but slow at the same time with many ups and downs. For instance, the many organizations we have met in Cuba so far have been able to really show us the truth about Cuba, letting us know the real effects of the blockade on the Cuban people […]

Cuba Day 4 – Learning about myself

So far these 4-5 days I’ve been in Cuba I’ve learned so much not about just Cuba but myself too. I’ve expanded my horizon with everything. Such as eating new foods, learning new dances, attempting to speak a new language etc […]

Cuba Day 3 – Perspective

My time and experience in Cuba so far has been great. Ever since getting off the plane and out the doors of the airport, I can’t stop smiling as the environment of Cuba produces a different vibe than New York […]

Cuba Day 2 – Getting to Know Havana

Our second day of Cuba went amazingly smoothly. First, we toured 4 plazas in Cuba’s capital Havana. It was extremely hot throughout the tour, but that didn’t take away from the beautiful colorful buildings that were all around the city […]

Cuba Day 1 – The Journey Begins

Upon our arrival in Cuba, the first thing to take note of was the hot and humid tropical air. Unlike anything I have experienced in New York, the air wasn’t only hot but fresh […]

ISP Cuba 2019

This year’s ISP crew arrived in Cuba on July 1. Our members’ 4-week immersion experience is co-facilitated by Brittany Reyes, Frank Lopez and Jason Warwin.

Over the next few days, the ISP crew will explore the capital of Havana, meet with artists researching issues of race in Cuba, participate in Afro-Cuban dance, and visit the Museum of the Revolution.