|Trinity students display their tiger pride in Havana. Photo courtesy of Stuart Allen|
“I knew I liked plant biology, but I didn’t know that I was as interested in agriculture as I am before I went to Cuba. I’m also more jazzed to take Spanish classes now because I can see how useful that skill would be.”
The multidisciplinary program exposed students to all that Cuba had to offer. The students were able to receive course credit for the program in many areas, including biology, environmental studies, political science, business, and economics.
|Roybal recalls her experience in Cuba|
“In the 90s, Cuba’s economy crashed after the fall of the Soviet Union. Because of that, [Cuba] couldn’t industrialize, so their farming is more sustainable [than that of the US] because it’s non-industrial.”
The students explored these issues in depth over the course of the program, visiting many farms, studying various agricultural methods, and even dropping by the botanical gardens and taking some lessons in ecology.
|Organic farm in Vinales, Cuba|
“Every once in awhile our professors would drop us off in Havana somewhere and we would have 30 minutes to an hour to go talk to Cuban people and ask them questions.” She recalls interviewing Cubans on topics ranging from internet use to freedom of speech to issues involving the US embargo in Cuba, which Cubans call ‘the blockade’.
This experience was useful in that it forced her to develop the ability to talk to complete strangers in addition to giving her information for her studies. In a country under a Communist regime, Roybal noted, there were many differences from the United States.
Roybal also remarked that these differences extended beyond her academic work in the program. Her experience in Cuba made her more aware of the consumerism culture in the U.S. “Cuban people own less stuff. In America, if people have too much stuff they pay for storage. Cubans are still happy, intelligent people without all of this.”
Roybal enjoyed the cultural immersion aspect of the abroad experience. When asked about a favorite memory, she she expressed her enjoyment of the live music they saw and recounted some concerts that the group attended. She also noted that the Cuban people are very friendly, and contrary to popular belief, are quite receptive to Americans. Speaking to Cubans directly broke any stigmas about their culture that she may have had.
Overall, the experience was highly impactful for Roybal and she remembers it as a positive experience. “[Programs like this] are a really valuable learning tool.”