Students get rare opportunity to visit Cuba
By William SchmidtOn August 26, 2014
With the control of Cuba falling into the hands of Fidel Castro in 1959,
Americans no longer had easy accessibility to visit the island. But in
May, a group of students were able to visit Cuba to see what a Latin
American socialist country looks like as well as learn about
“It’s not something many Americans can experience. I really wanted the
opportunity to say, ‘I studied abroad in Cuba,’” said sociology graduate
student and Student Government Association President Stephanie Travis.
As the borders of Cuba weaken allowing more Americans in, the economy is
also changing which gave participants in the program a chance to see
firsthand how Cuba currently exists.
“There are tremendous changes occurring in Cuba right now because of the
opening up of the economy,” said David Burley, professor of sociology.
“Ten years from now, Cuba is likely to be much different, and for better
or worse, may look much more like the U.S. or other Latin American
Due to trade and commerce regulations for cargo being imported into
Cuba, many Cubans have had to learn to utilize ingenuity with limited
resources and creative ways to recycle used products.
“I really like green-initiative and things that try to promote an
environment that doesn’t waste resources but instead utilizes resources
in every way possible by recycling,” said Travis. “You will see them
washing a zip lock bag and reusing that zip lock bag. Their ingenuity
and innovation to use their thought process and critical thinking to
create things out of nothing were amazing.”
Through the hardships endured, Cubans have created ways to enrich their
daily lives in the aftermath of problems created from generations before
them. Rivers that had been polluted for decades as well as having the
government grant land to people in need and grow food which allowed
places such as Havana to produce organic gardens. This provides food for
those who live on the outskirts of Cuba.
“Sustainable agriculture became very important during the Soviet Union
and relied upon them for the purchasing of chemical fertilized,
herbicides and pesticides,” said Burley. “With the fall of the Soviet
Union, Cuba now has to figure out how to feed itself without a huge
supply of these chemicals. Thus, sustainable, cooperatively owned and
run urban and rural farms popped up all over the country.”
As students ended their time in Cuba, their former preconceptions were
changed by the experience.
“One thing is certain: all the students said that all of their
preconceived notions of Cuba were erased,” said Burley. “They thought it
would be an extremely poor country, and it would be unsafe. They found
the population to be very friendly; [Cubans] like Americans, and [the
students] felt very safe. While they saw a fair amount of poverty, they
did not find much difference from the U.S.”
The opportunity to visit Cuba will be offered again next May.
“Our trip next May will be just as educational and fun,” said Burley.
“We will add a service day where we spend the day working on a
sustainable farm and art collective that educates youth in the arts and
supports itself through its sustainable agriculture. This kind of trip
is what university education is all about. You get enlightening
knowledge about another people, culture and the unequivocal skills that
Source: Students get rare opportunity to visit Cuba | lionsroarnews –