Harvard College Program in Cuba Past Review

By (Social Studies, Harvard University) for

Harvard University: Havana - DRCLAS Program in Cuba

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Drastically different from anywhere else I have ever visited or lived.

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Courses in general were varied in their level of organization and structure, but professors were dedicated and enthusiastic to work with study abroad students.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Both our Cuban and Harvard directors were responsive to our needs, and supportive throughout the semester.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

We were living in a residence reserved mainly for study abroad students and foreign diplomats. I was more than satisfied with our housing situation. However, I would have preferred living with Cuban students, or closer to campus. Also, other residences did provide internet, which would have been extremely beneficial. The work staff in ANAP was kind and hospitable, however, and I would not have traded our experience for any other.

* Food:

Cuban food tended to be bland and not terribly varied. However, we were always provided with substantial food at the residence, even if there was not a ton of variety in the meals.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

There were constantly shows and cultural festivals, including the Latin American Film Festival and the International Jazz Festival.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

We had a few isolated incidents of muggings on our block, but in general Havana is an extremely safe city with virtually no violent crime. Also, with universal health care, all citizens and temporary residents (i.e. study abroad students) receive free care.

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


* 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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $40
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Use CUC sparingly, as items purchased in moneda nacional are considerably less expensive. Most items purchased in CUC could be considered luxuries (alcohol, imported foods, internet, etc.). If you travel within Cuba, be sure to bring more money than you think you'll need in case of emergency.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Spanish 30
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

Unfortunately, living with American students made it difficult to fully immerse myself in an environment conducive to language learning. However, my language skills did improve significantly over the course of the semester from speaking with classmates, professors, peers, and people we encountered out and about throughout our daily routine in Havana.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Friends on trip
  • Salsa lessons
* What could be improved?
  • Length of program
  • More trips as a group
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? If you are interested in experiencing Cuba firsthand, study abroad. Most sources of Cuba are biased, so go experience it for yourself.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Las relaciones Cuba-Estados Unidos y su impacto en la sociedad cubana

Course Department: Harvard y La Universidad de La Habana
Instructor: Schultz
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: Each week we learned from a different Cuban specialist about a particular aspect of US-Cuban relations or contemporary Cuban society. I would have preferred a more discussion-based class environment, as most of the professors simply lectured. However, I enjoyed the variety of topics addressed and the flexibility with regard to our final research paper.
Credit Transfer Issues: No.
Course Name/Rating:

Biodiversidad y Conservación

Course Department: Biología
Instructor: Dr. Lourdes Mugica
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: We had a different specialist lecture each week, and had the opportunity to go on three different trips to conduct field research. Lectures could be a bit dry and formulaic, but excellent class and academic experience nonetheless.
Credit Transfer Issues: No.
Course Name/Rating:

La Historia de la Cultura Cubana

Course Department: Historia
Instructor: Pitaluga
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: Professor Pitaluga was one of the best lecturers that I have had throughout my college experience. My only issue with the course was that he left occasionally during the semester to give lectures in different Latin American countries.
Credit Transfer Issues: No.
Course Name/Rating:

Práctica Integral de Español

Course Department: Lenguas Extranjeras
Instructor: Mayra Delgado
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: Not as rigorous or structured as I would have hoped. I would have preferred taking another course as a substitute for this course.
Credit Transfer Issues: No.