Powerful, Eye-opening, and Fun July 24, 2014

By (Economics And Spanish, Pomona College) - abroad from 01/21/2014 to 05/22/2014 with

Sarah Lawrence College: Havana - Sarah Lawrence College in Cuba

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Gained: the ability to look at the world from a perspective different than the U.S. perspective. (invaluable skill), Several amazing friends Learned: A ton of Spanish, how to take a Cuban bus, how to smoke a cigar, how to drink a glass of fine rum, lots of other stuff.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The two classes I took through the university, one a broad analysis of Cuban society, the other a thorough study of the Cuban economy, were both informative and well run. The small class size made for a personal learning experience with the Cuban professors, which was invaluable. The two classes I took at the art conservatory ISA, el instituto superior de artes, were also both excellent.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The director and assistant director were excellent at providing us with opportunities without making the program feel over-structured.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Living at the headquarters of the small farmers association gave me the opportunity to interact with Cubans and practice my Spanish 24/7. I much prefer this living arrangement to the alternatives I heard described by students on other Cuba programs.

* Food:

Two home cooked meals a day at the house meant people were cooking for me more than they do at home. It was wonderful. Do tell people to bring their favorite sauces and spices though. That way the rice and beans will never get old! (My personal recommendation: a shaker of salt and a shaker of pepper as well)

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Studying at the university and ISA made meeting Cubans easy. This is not a program where you spend all of your time with Americans.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The Cuban health system lives up to its fame. One of the girls on our program had her appendix taken out without any problems. No to the health issues question

* Safety:

I felt very safe and didn't see anything to make me feel differently.

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

Finances

* 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)

The state sponsored economy means that everything will be beyond affordable for most American students. The stipend I received from Pomona was enough to cover my expenses.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 50
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Let other people buy alcohol. It's the most expensive thing on the island.

Language

* 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

I can attribute almost all of my Spanish knowledge and capability to my 5 months in Cuba.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
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? Literary analysis course at Pomona Spanish 101
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? Find an activity outside of the house. A local choir, a sports team, a video gamers club. These things are all waiting for you to take advantage of, and the program directors know where to send you to find them. Alternatively make friends with the house staff.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Other
* 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?
  • Classes and professors
  • Students I met locally
  • Students on the program
* What could be improved?
  • More events at beginning of program; less towards the end
  • One on One meeting with director earlier in semester
  • I'm out of ideas
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Bring an umbrella. Bring hot sauce and spice. Take your money out of the safe in small amounts and you will spend it more wisely.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!