Dancing and drumming and learning in post-embargo Cuba April 19, 2017

By (Teacher Education by Subjects, University of Utah) - abroad from 02/16/2017 to 02/26/2017 with

ThisWorldMusic: Music and Dance Programs in Cuba

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was very worthwhile. Cuba has always been a mystery to me. It's so close to Florida and yet has had so much influence from Russia, especially financially. When the USSR broke up and the Russians left, Cuba needed to fend for itself and it is just now beginning to modernize and protect its architectural and cultural roots at the same time. I wonder about the influence in the future of having American tourists in the country and how that may change Cuba. But that may be a long time coming, because Cuba has a lot of financial challenges and infrastructure maintenance to work on.

Review Photos

ThisWorldMusic: Music and Dance Programs in Cuba Photo ThisWorldMusic: Music and Dance Programs in Cuba Photo ThisWorldMusic: Music and Dance Programs in Cuba Photo ThisWorldMusic: Music and Dance Programs in Cuba Photo ThisWorldMusic: Music and Dance Programs in Cuba Photo

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.

This program included dancing, lectures, field trips, drumming and the experience of being in Havana, Cuba. We learned so much about Afro Cuban music and dance as well as spiritual and community practices blending the cultures of Africa at the time of slavery with the culture of post-embargo Cuba.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

We had fantastic support from Claire, our country liaison and master organizer, and Charlie, our incredible interpreter. Both worked tirelessly to make our program run smoothly.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Our housing was an apartment in a neighborhood within walking distance of our major dancing, drumming and educational venues. We ate breakfast in a pretty outdoor courtyard and had a room with a very nice bath attached. The proprietors were very helpful and gracious to us.

* Food:

Our dinners in particular were very generous and gave us the experience of Cuban food. We had flan for dessert many nights and came to enjoy all the different ways it was prepared.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I am a beginning Spanish speaker and the language barrier got in the way of feeling "integrated." However I had many wonderful conversations with people I met on the street or in restaurants or local markets. Everyone was very pleased to have Americans finally able to visit and they were kind and helpful. During the program we had Charlie to interpret and that helped us feel closer to our instructors. Staying in a private residence and walking to our program gave me an understanding of the people who lived there and the challenges they face with finances and with the government that still holds a lot of control over money, jobs and people's lives.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Our leaders always had a first aid box with us wherever we went, which was very helpful. As far as I know, the only first aid issues were on the level of BandAids, but I am confident that our team would respond to more serious health issues promptly and with transportation available, if it were to become necessary.

* Safety:

We were told at the beginning that the neighborhoods we walked in were very safe and that turned out to be true. We walked home as a group after dinner each night through many different neighborhoods an I never felt at risk. As in any large city, I wouldn't walk around in the dark, but I still think our area in Havana was friendly and safe.

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

This program is unique and is made particularly special by the leaders and the energy of the instructors, who were wonderful local musicians who loved what they were teaching us.


* 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)

Our food was almost completely paid for by the program, as was transportation and materials, so I was surprised how little money I spent during the program.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $75 not including souvenirs.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Note that ATMs and credit cards at this point were not generally used, so we changed money at the airport and found that amount to be sufficient


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The group of students became a very strong, unified group.
  • The music was fabulous! We learned and performed and also experienced concerts and dance performance by professional artists.
  • I came to enjoy and love the Cuban people with whom we had contact.
* What could be improved?
  • I needed more down time to be able to journal, wander around and recuperate from the energetic activity.
  • It turned out that there was a large disparity in the dancing and drumming experience of the participants. At first it was very frustrating for those of us who had less training. We solved that by splitting the group by experience level and I personally had a great time in my small group that was drumming at an appropriate pace for me.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? We were very well-prepared for the program in a phone conference and downloadable materials that explained what was going to happen.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'