Mar 042003
Authors: Amy Bergstrom

Cuba is a land of “intriguing politics and vibrant Caribbean culture,” according to an Office of International Programs brochure. Students can discover the intrigue for themselves this summer.

The Office of International Programs and the College of Liberal Arts are offering a course this summer on “Culture and Society in Contemporary Cuba.” As part of the course, students will spend two weeks on a study tour in Cuba, primarily in Havana.

The class, lead by Doug Yarrington, an assistant professor of history, and Kris Kodrich, an assistant professor of journalism and technical communication, will start on campus, studying the history, culture and politics of Cuba.

Then, the group will travel to Cuba to witness Cuban life first-hand.

“We want students to talk to Cuban citizens about their day-to-day life,” Kodrich said. “We want them to talk to Cuban professors about the political situation, talk to economists about the economic problems and talk to farmers about the agricultural concerns.”

Both Yarrington and Kodrich have traveled to Cuba in the past on faculty study-tours. Kodrich said he wanted to share with students the types of experiences he had.

“I found out so much more about how the average Cuban lives day-to-day life then I ever could through a lecture or a meeting with a government official,” he said.

The class offers a chance for students to learn about an area unknown to many.

“It sounds like a really interesting opportunity to experience a culture that you wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to,” said Sarah Lenarz, a freshman majoring in interior design.

The Latin American studies program has been discussing the possibility of taking a class to Cuba for years, said Kara Bingham, director of study abroad in the Office of International Programs.

The Latin American studies program and the Office of International Programs worked in conjunction to make the necessary arrangements.

Because of the trade embargo and travel restrictions to Cuba, one of these arrangements was to obtain a license from the U.S. Treasury Department, so that students may travel legally and even spend money, within limits.

Students, professors and journalists are among the few Americans allowed exceptions to some of the restrictions.

Applications for the class are available from the Office of International Programs and are due Friday, although there is flexibility to accept late applications on a space-available basis, Bingham said.

The application consists of an essay, a faculty reference and an official transcript. “Students could complete all of their parts in one night,” Bingham said.

The class can take up to 20 students and needs a minimum of 15. Currently, around 10 people are enrolled in the class.

The three-credit class costs around $3,000, which covers tuition, the study abroad administrative charge, the costs of accommodation, air travel from Cancun to Havana, ground transportation, meals and fees.

Additionally, students must provide their own transportation to Cancun, which will vary from student to student but will be approximately $500, Bingham said.

Other study abroad programs this summer are available through the Office of International Programs and include studies in Spain, London, Germany and Japan.

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