Welcome to my blog! Since I’m required to write my first post before I depart for Cuba in eight days, I figured I’d use it as a chance to introduce myself and share a bit about what I’m expecting (even though I originally planned to title this post “no expectations” since that captures how I’m currently feeling).
As you’ve probably already read, I’m a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in Political Science. I’m from a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan who never thought she’d have the opportunity to spend 3.5 months in Cuba. I knew I wanted to make studying abroad in a Spanish speaking country a priority during my college experience,but I was initially hoping to go to Mexico (where I have family) or Peru. That is, until last October when I was browsing my school’s study abroad website and saw that the IFSA-Butler program in Cuba was added as a new option (my reaction was to gasp loudly, which my former roommate Jasmin can attest to).
Studying abroad has been a dream of mine since high school, and it seems a bit unreal that I’m about to finally be doing it. Thanks to the generosity of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, this experience went from being a distant dream in the mind of a teenager to a quickly approaching reality. I feel very lucky to get the chance to study in Cuba, a place few Americans get to visit and a place with such rich history and culture. With diplomatic relations having been restored between the U.S. and Cuba a little over a year ago, it also seems like an exciting time to be going to say the least.
So, I keep getting asked, what will you be doing in Cuba? The truth is I don’t know all the details. Here is what I know. I will be spending the semester living in Havana, directly enrolled at la Universidad de la Habana taking 4-5 classes alongside the 20 or so students in my program and students at UH. One of my classes will be on Cuban History and Culture but I will not know what other classes I will be taking until I begin the enrollment process at UH. However, the university has a department of studies dedicated to the life and work of José Martí so I’m hoping to take a class in that department, along with a political theory course. Since I will be directly enrolled, all of the lectures, readings and coursework will be in Spanish. I’m both excited and nervous about this. However, I know it will be an experience that pushes me out of my comfort zone and will allow me to grow personally and academically. As far as living arrangements, I will be staying at a casa particular in the Vedado district with three other students. We will be living with a couple who rent out the extra rooms in their house, similar to a bed and breakfast. During school breaks in September, October and November I will participate in excursions to Viñales, La Picadora and Santiago with the rest of the IFSA-Butler students. Other than that, I will be bringing a guide book with me since I won’t be able to look things up online about where to travel to and what to see. I hope to enjoy Havana and travel around the country with other students on my program during the weekends (don’t worry, mom and dad, I won’t go alone).
Now you know about all I know at this point! Like I said, no expectations, but maybe that’s for the better. If you feel so inclined, please feel free to follow me here during the semester. I plan to write blog posts once per week, but since I’ve heard internet access will be limited and unreliable, I may draft posts and then upload a few at once when I get the chance. I hope reading this will be interesting and (maybe) even entertaining. My next post will likely be August 30, when I’ll have about eight hours to kill at the Toronto airport waiting to check in for my flight to Havana. Until then.