Education Echo Blog

University of Redlands School of Education

Returning to Cuba: Students Experience a Culture of Mutual Aid

Study Away courses explore, examine, and understand current issues related to culture and globalization utilizing socially-situated theoretical perspectives in framing approaches to curriculum, instruction, and assessment.  Returning once more to a Study Away opportunity in Cuba, students reflect on the experience and what they will take back from their time abroad. 

Dylan Zito '24

I'm going into my senior year at Redlands in the Johnston college, studying social justice and intersectionality. When I first heard about the option to study abroad in Cuba I thought it was an amazing opportunity and immediately got in touch with the coordinators. We are only halfway through our trip, but I have already made so many beautiful memories and learned so much, so I know I made the right choice in choosing this study abroad. 

I think my favorite part of this trip (aside from spending time with the incredible people here) is that I have the opportunity to learn truths and unlearn misconceptions about this country and about communism. There is a lot of fearmongering and propaganda in the United States which paints a picture of Cuba that many of us are familiar with. However, I have learned that this picture is far from the truth. The more I learn about Cuba the more I love Cuba. I am so glad I came! 

Tehya Tovar '23

I am a MALT student who is studying to become a history teacher. I was interested in coming to Cuba because I saw it as a unique opportunity to experience the history and culture of a country that is for the most part inaccessible to people of the US. I know that as a history teacher the framing in which events are presented greatly impacts the way in which people form their opinions about who is on the right or wrong side of history. In a country that has not had a good political relationship with the US and uses an economic system that has been extremely vilified, I wanted to connect with the Cuban people who have been affected by the hostility between our governments. My host family and all the guides who led us on various tours were some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. They take the curiosity of our group in stride and don’t shy away from difficult topics. I have experienced life changing conversations about education, healthcare, and the impacts of the US embargo. The history of Cuba is a rich tapestry that comes out in the colorful architecture, varieties of music, and sense of community. One of my favorite experiences on this trip was visiting the Fabrica de Arte. It is an amazing place that serves many functions. There are 2 art galleries that have pieces made from of all kinds of mediums, they also have small shops that rotate featured artists. I took a rumba class that was very fun, and the live music was spectacular. There are various bars and a cafe, but my favorite activity was watching the sustainable fashion show that had looks from 32 designers. 

I was surprised by how quickly I got used to being in a different country. While I still struggle against the heat and mosquitoes the people have made this experience worth it. I have truly enjoyed the lectures I heard in the university and feel like this trip has made me grow as a person. 

Hannah Jerrier '23

I enrolled in the Cuba Study Away course to complete my capstone for the MALT pathway. I graduated from the University of Redlands with my bachelors in Spanish and Psychology while minoring in Race and Ethnic Studies. After graduating with my Master of Arts in Education I hope to become a Spanish teacher. When I saw the opportunity to travel to Cuba as part of the completion of MALT 610, I knew it was the perfect combination of my areas of study. Before arriving, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I am enjoying my experience here learning about the culture and the people.  

Before leaving the US, I read a few articles for the course as an introduction to Cuba. I didn’t have much knowledge of Cuba as it is not a country commonly discussed in the United States. These articles gave me a better understanding of both the trials and tribulations in Cuba along with its successes. The Cuban Revolution was a time of great change for the country, and presented many advancements that can be learned from. I decided to write my thesis for the MALT program on the lasting effects of the Cuban Revolution on Afro-Cubans in education. Coming to Cuba and getting first-hand experience has given me a deeper understanding of the workings of Cuban society and how it shapes the country’s identity and its education system. 

From my experience, I have been able to interact with various aspects of society, government, culture, and people. It has been a transformative experience to see the pride that Cubans have in their home country and their willingness to share their stories. As a class, we have been able to discuss our experiences on the trip and reflect on the knowledge we have gained through lectures, museums, and schools. Being with a group from all over the US with different backgrounds has allowed us to be understanding of different perspectives on topics. The host families have made everyone feel welcome and take care of us as if we are their own children. The program aims to bridge the divide between the people of Cuba and the United States despite their long history, and my experience has been eye opening to Cuba as a country outside of its political relationship with the United States. 

Kenia Gonzalez '23

I am a MALT student with a Bachelor of Arts in Literature. I would like to be a high school English teacher in California. I chose to study in Cuba because I was really interested in the education system in Latin America and overall, just curious about Cuba itself because it’s a country that the United States does not have the best relationship with. This has caused a lack of information revolving Cuba as well as misinformation. 

I was extremely nervous to be traveling alone to a foreign country that requires extra steps to enter. This would be the first time that I wouldn’t be with someone who I was personally close with. However, my homestay family has been extremely kind; they go above and beyond to make sure that my roommate and I are as comfortable as possible. My classmates have also been great, and we were able to get extremely close in a small amount of time.  We have managed to create an environment that is fun while constantly engaging in meaningful conversations. 

During my time here I have been amazed to learn about Cuba’s politics, the education system, and culture. We have engaged in lectures that have been extremely informative. At the same time, we have participated in many cultural aspects of Cuba like the music, architecture, and food. Cuban food is so delicious, and I am constantly trying food that isn’t widely eaten in the United States, such as yucca and other vegetables. We have even gotten the opportunity to understand how complex growing food on an island with limited resources is. Cubans are constantly trying to create organic ways of producing enough food that is healthy and free of harmful additives. Traveling to Cuba has been truly eye opening because it has been an opportunity to reflect on social changes that can be made to our own communities to promote growth while simultaneously allowing for greater empathy and understand for a country that has been continuously negatively impacted by the United statues for centuries. 

Jonah Haas '24

The Cuba Study Away is a super interesting study away experience.  Despite the struggling economy and crumbling infrastructure, the Cuban people seem be very happy and content with the government.  Cubans are some of the nicest people I have ever met.  My home stay family are the sweetest individuals.  I love them.  Every day they make us breakfast and dinner. Their cooking is some of the best cooking I’ve ever had.  My home stay mom hand washes all my clothes.  They refuse to even let me help with the dishes, despite my pleas.  They are genuinely wonderful.  I am so glad I went on this trip.

Summer 2024: Study Away in Cuba

The School of Education has a potential Study Away opportunity taking place Summer 2024 to Cuba. Travel dates have not yet been confirmed.

This two-week trip to Cuba offers students the opportunity to see and experience Cuba firsthand. Students live with Cuban families while studying the history, politics, and social institutions that structure much of Cuban society.

Learn more about Study Away Opportunities