Wait, you’re in Cuba?! Isn’t that like a Communist country? Why would you ever go there? These were the typical questions I was asked before coming to Havana for the spring semester. The reasons I give don’t always convince people of what an amazing place Cuba is to study abroad, so hopefully the following will convince you. Yes, it’s a great resume builder, but that should not be the only reason why you come here.
Here are MY reasons:
1. Cuba is changing fast and will continue to change.
Don’t you want to experience Cuba while it is still socialist and mysterious and unlike any other place you will most likely visit in your entire life? Little by little the island is opening up and the restrictions between the US and Cuba are getting more and more relaxed meaning if you visit at a later time, you might not be able to experience Cuba in its amazing current state. There might be more American products and businesses, widespread Wi-Fi, a less socialist government, more modern cars, less old American cars, and many other differences. Going to Cuba now is like going back to the past, it’s a pretty cool feeling.
2. You learn to appreciate what you have back in the states.
Regardless of your financial situation in the United States, going to Cuba will make you appreciate what you have. You will appreciate the opportunities you have to be successful and to create a bright future for yourself. You will appreciate the fact that every product you could possible want is available to you at all times. Here you might go to the store to buy a “gaseosa”, but there’s a good chance it probably ran out. Also, I have met many skaters (some are extremely good and have traveled to the states with Red Bull) but here, there is not even one skate shop or place to buy skateboards, meaning that they can’t do what they love unless foreigners bring them supplies.
3. It is a unique study abroad experience and nothing like Europe.
Unlike studying abroad in Europe or other typical destinations, studying abroad in Cuba is not all about drinking, partying and traveling every weekend to new countries. Yes, we go out in Cuba, but we also go to tons of museums, explore every nook and cranny of Havana, go to concerts, and experience the culture. We do not try to leave Havana every weekend to go to as many new countries as possible. Instead, we travel to different cities throughout Cuba to get to know new regions, new accents of Spanish, new foods, and new people so we have a better understanding of Cuba as a whole because after all is said and done, we came to Cuba to be in Cuba, not to leave it.
4. You can disconnect from life outside Cuba and learn about yourself
Here, we live in the present, we live in the moment, we live in Cuba. At home (or basically anywhere else in the world), we constantly worry about what other people are doing, who updated their status on Facebook, who posted what on Instagram, or what we are doing in three weeks. Without any distractions (mainly speaking of INTERNET), we appreciate every moment we experience. Whether it is listening to someone play guitar on the porch, cooking fried plantains with our friends in the residencia, or watching the sunset on the malecon, we live in the present. When you are not constantly thinking about and distracted by outside things, it is easier to live in the moment, enjoy the simple things, and most importantly, reflect on yourself and how you are living your life.
5. Sunny weather and turquoise water beaches for 4 months.
Yes, I had to add it. These were not reasons why I personally came to Cuba, but they were for many other people AND they are actually pretty good reasons now that I think about it. When you arrive in Cuba, it is sunny, for four straight months it is sunny, and the day you leave, it is sunny. Not only is it sunny, it is hot and a great escape from the cold, snowy winters of North America (unless you live in the south of course). On top of the weather, the beaches are some of the best in the world, and the snorkeling is on another level. Beautiful beaches can be found only 30 minutes from the center of Havana and cost $2 round trip…you can’t beat that.