Editor’s Note: This blog is written by Jen Roberts, who works in Culver-Stockton College’s Communications Office. She is joining 15 students and three professors and will keep the community updated through blog posts, photos and videos.
The purpose of this blog is to provide an in-depth look at something many Americans have never experienced: the country of Cuba. Our group will study the music and government of a country that has been off-limits to most Americans for many years, and we want to share our experiences.
Even with all of the amazing travel opportunities for our students at Culver-Stockton, we were especially excited when a Travel Study course was set to spend part of a three-week term in Cuba.
I’ve always felt that Cuba is a mysterious and forbidden place. The United States has had an embargo against Cuba for more than 50 years, which is longer than I have been alive. But, luckily for us, the embargo partially lifted in 2010 to allow certain Americans to visit, such as those with educational purposes or those with families in Cuba.
I never dreamed of having the opportunity to go to Cuba and this will also be my first time outside of the country. So when my boss gave me the assignment to be the eyes and ears of the college and tell you the story of the students and their adventures, I was both apprehensive and ecstatic.
After a semester of attending class with the students enrolled in the course, we have learned quite a bit about this fascinating culture. For example, the people are very friendly and accepting, however, according to some sources I have read, going to Cuba is like being in a 50-year time warp due to the embargo. I also learned that Cuba is a melting pot of African, South American, European and Caribbean cultures, with unique music, architecture and cuisine.
To plan for the Travel Study course, the students have done extensive research in other aspects of Cuba, including sports, music and specific areas of government. For instance, they discovered Cuba is a communist nation, but it still holds elections. And they learned that Cuba is only 90 miles away from Florida. When you think of Cuban culture, it seems more like it should be a half a world away. With the proximity, it makes sense that the U.S. has an undeniable influence on Cuba, especially prior to when the Kennedy administration enacted the embargo in 1960. (In fact, the U.S. Army even governed Cuba for a short time after Cuba won its independence from Spain.)
Here’s a list of interesting facts we learned as we prepared for our travel:
- No jeans for men or women, and no shorts for men.
- Visitors can purchase access to the Internet, but it is not available to the general public.
- Drink only bottled water and use it for brushing your teeth and so forth.
- Bring sunblock and bug spray (They are not readily available or they are expensive).
- We cannot fly directly to Cuba from America, so our group is flying by way of Cancun, Mexico.
I am so excited for the students to have this opportunity and to be able to transmit this experience to people back home. The Internet access is supposed to be iffy at best, but I promise to do whatever I can to get daily information back, including blog posts, pictures and video clips. I encourage you to take the time to get to know the students and faculty here.
We leave for this excellent adventure in only four days, but will continue to update everyone on our preparation. Thank you for joining us!