As U.S.-Cuba relations improve, Americans are finding it easier to travel to the island nation and experience its unique culture first-hand. Recognizing the educational opportunities available thanks to this new era of diplomacy, several universities throughout the U.S.—including Harvard, Pitt, Sarah Lawrence, and Morningside College—have created new study abroad in Cuba programs or expanded their existing ones.
If you’re a college student interested in doing a semester or year abroad, now is a good time to consider traveling to Cuba. In addition to improving your Spanish language skills, here are three reasons for studying in this Latin American country:
1. Expand Your Historical and Political Knowledge
Many students may not be familiar with Cuba’s fascinating and complicated history, or the intricacies of its state of affairs. Studying there allows young Americans to learn about the country’s background and see its current political climate. Humanities students in particular can expand their worldview and gain new perspectives which will help give them a more comprehensive understanding of their own work in subjects like international S=studies, communications, history, political science, philosophy, and literature.
2. Discover New Innovations in Medical Research
Cuba can also be an eye-opening experience for many natural science majors and medical students. The country has done its own unique medical research, without much help or input from the international community. Now that U.S. is changing its diplomatic stance on Cuba, professors and students have the chance to learn about new studies and experiments while working alongside their Cuban counterparts.
One of the more exciting innovations in medicine on the small island country has been the creation of a potential vaccine for lung cancer. Medical students and research doctors interested in working on cutting-edge cancer studies would certainly benefit from a trip to Cuba.
3. Partake in an Artistic and Cultural Exchange
In addition to their resourceful medical research and distinct politics, Cubans also have a rich and lively culture. The country’s art, music, and dance are particularly exciting fields for young, creative students to explore.
Cuba has a long history of public art and poster-making, not all of which has been direct propaganda. Despite issues with censorship, the country’s fine art scene has flourished over the years, thanks to both state-sponsored programs and the works of individual artists. Some Cuban artists have been able to interact with the international community, but now Americans have the opportunity to engage with them, too. From sculpture to graphic design, there is an exciting and inspirational art world to discover in Cuba.
Whether you’re a budding art historian, future diplomat, or just hoping to improve your Spanish in a Latin country you haven’t been able to visit before, you may benefit from studying abroad in Cuba. In addition to learning about a new culture, you’ll have the opportunity to exchange ideas with a populace very different from yours. While Cuba’s struggling economy and political ideologies are vastly different from ours in the States, both American students and the Cuban academic community have a lot to learn from each other. Traveling to Cuba is an incredible educational opportunity which can also improve the dialogue between the two countries.
Javaher Nooryani is a writer and editor based in Denver, CO. She has a BA in American Literature & Culture from UCLA and a Masters in English & American Literature from NYU. As a former tutor and advisor, Javaher is passionate about higher education and is glad to share her knowledge on CollegeFocus, a website that helps students deal with the challenges of college.