I went to Havana and it's still hard to express exactly what it was like March 09, 2018

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 08/28/2017 to 12/16/2017 with

Brown University: Havana - Brown in Cuba

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was the best thing I have ever done; it might be easier to enumerate what I didn't gain than what I did, and it's hard to express exactly how important this experience was to me in a short paragraph, but a few things that come immediately to mind are empathy, an opening up of my assumptions about the world, and a connection with a different culture I never would have had otherwise- as well as linguistic skills.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Overall, this was an amazing academic experience, and the connection with Casa de las Américas afforded the Brown in Cuba students some very valuable scholarly advantages and resources.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Administrators definitely made an effort to support students, but there were some areas in which we could have used more guidance; overall, however, I would say logistical support was well done.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I stayed in a homestay and it was definitely the best decision I could have made. The family was incredible and giving and generous and kind and I'm grateful that this program could facilitate that kind of connection.

* Food:

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

This is a difficult question, because it begs the subsequent question of how integrated a study abroad student who only stays in a country for four months can or should actually be, but regardless of whether I felt "integrated", I definitely felt welcomed, especially by my host family.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

At one time or another the food caused stomach issues for pretty much everyone in my group, but the insurance program we had through this program was comprehensive, easy to use and very convenient.

* Safety:

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

I go back and forth on this, because there were definitely some areas in which this program could improve, specifically and most egregiously in the area of how it treats the different conceptions of race and privilege in Cuba and the U.S. and how it supports racial minority students as they encounter the different forms that prejudice takes in Cuba- but the coordinators were certainly always open to dialogue about these issues, and there is a degree to which these differences are something about Cuba that students should not necessarily be shielded from. The Casa de las Américas component of this program was extremely valuable and a great opportunity, and my homestay was incredible; so overall, yes, I think I would choose this same program again, although I was at times uncomfortable with the amount of special treatment we got and with the way that the program dealt with certain fraught issues.


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

25 Cuban pesos are one American dollar, so I didn't spend much money if I went to local places; 1 Cuban CUC, however, is about equal to an American dollar, so if I wanted to go to a tourist-oriented place, it was more expensive

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Probably around $30
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Figure out how to use and take local transportation


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

Coordinators always talked to us in Spanish and all classes were taught in Spanish

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? At Middlebury, a 300-level class
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Watching movies and listening to music in Spanish is useful, but just being patient once you arrive in the country is definitely your best bet for improving and starting to feel more comfortable linguistically.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Generally just being in Cuba
  • Classes with scholars
  • Host family
* What could be improved?
  • Sensitivity to differences in racial philosophies between the U.S. and Cuba
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? More Cuban history. Definitely read a book or two on your host country before going there, and study up on its history and current issues.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Esclavitud: memoria, legado y secuelas en la sociedad cubana

Course Department: Casa de las Américas
Instructor: Bárbara Danzie León
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This was an absolutely incredible course and what I learned with Bárbara fundamentally changed what I want to study and why. Bárbara is so knowledgeable and a great lecturer, and takes students on field trips to historically relevant sites; to hear the way she teaches about the legacy of slavery in Cuba, modern racial considerations in Cuba, and Afro-Cuban religions is an opportunity that should not be missed.
Credit Transfer Issues: