Cuba: Once So Far Now So Near
Sarah McQueen
smqu643@uwsp.edu

For the first time ever students of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point are being offered the opportu­nity to study abroad in Cuba.

Through a new program, “The Cuban Revolution”, students will travel to Cuba for two weeks, from January 6-20, 2013. Students will spend most of their time in Havana where they will visit art and history museums, an organic farm and Old Morro Castle. The program will offer students insight into the island’s his­tory, politics and society.

Students who participate will earn credits for History 396 and will study Cuban history from both before and after the Cuban Revolution in 1969, considering the causes and impacts of the revolution on the country.

The program was conceived and is being lead by Assistant Professor of History Anja Reejhsinghani, who has already traveled to Cuba five times herself. Reejhsinghani has been considering starting a study abroad program in Cuba since she was first hired at UWSP in 2010.

Old Morro Castle in Havana is one of the attractions students will be able to see when they study
abroad in Cuba. Photo by Jessenia Pagán via The Wikimedia Foundation.

 

“I knew that it was a part of the world that many of our students would never have the opportunity to go to,” Reejhsinghani said. “It was important for me that it wasn’t just a tour or a vacation. I really wanted it to be academically rigorous.”

Reejhsinghani hopes that the stu­dents will take away more than just a history lesson though, and the activi­ties planned will give the students a chance to truly experience Cuba.

“I really want the students to be able to interact with Cubans directly,” Reejhsinghani said. “I really want students to make up their own minds up about the history of the U.S./ Cuban relationship, the change that Cuba has undergone, to understand the transition that is taking place and to get to know regular Cuban people.”

“I’m most looking forward to see­ing this country that I have heard so much about in history books and in the media,” said Erin Jensen, a UWSP student who is going on the trip. “I want to leave the stereotypes and fear behind me and go in with an edu­cated open mind.”
Students from other UW schools, and even students from schools out­side the UW system have signed up for this trip. There are currently 14 students signed up to go and applica­tions turned in within the next few days will still be considered.

“I’m really excited by the diver­sity of the students coming on this trip. Despite being really new and not having a lot of press beyond the local area it has really been able to acquire a tremendous amount of diversity,” Reejhsinghani said.

“The trip is going to help me fin­ish my history major requirements in a really cool way, being able to expe­rience the things that I am learning about firsthand rather than reading out of a textbook or doing a research paper in a traditional class setting,” said student Colin Destache, who has signed up. “A relatively small amount of students from the U.S. have had a chance to travel there in the last half century since Castro took power. Being part of one of the first groups of students to study there as restrictions begin to be loosened is going to offer a really unique experience to all of the students going on the trip.”

A full semester trip is not cur­rently being considered, as American currency cannot be used in Cuba. Reejhsinghani stated that she would make another trip in 2014 if students expressed enough interest. She hopes that other faculty in other disciplines will also take an interest in Cuba and begin leading their own trips.

Any interested students should contact the International Programs Office in room 108 in the Collins Classroom Center. Announcements and applications can be found on the website.