University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) students and faculty journeyed to Cuba for the inaugural UHD study abroad program Friday, May 13 to Monday, May 23. The trip was the culmination of three spring 2016 hybrid classes: Psychology, Political Science and Spanish.
Led by UHD faculty Susan Henney, Ph.D. and John Linantud, Ph.D., associate professors in social sciences, and Paul Mandell, Ph.D., assistant professor in arts and humanities, students visited museums and sites in the Vedado region of Havana, Old Havana, the site of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the town of Santa Clara of import both before and during the Revolution. Highlights of the sites visited included the Malecón, the Plaza de la Revolución with sculpture and statuary honoring Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and José Martí, the Museo de la Revolución, the Museo de la Alfabetización (honoring the literacy campaign throughout the country), and a visit to the recently reopened U.S. Embassy.
All program participants agreed that the experience was powerful, educational and historic.
“I believe the inaugural 2016 UHD Cuba Study Abroad Program was by any measure quite a success,” said Mandell. “The places we visited were all connected to topics discussed in the classrooms, and it was powerful to visit first-hand places with such historic connections to both Cuba and the U.S.”
In addition to viewing many museums, memorials, landmarks, students interacted with Cubans, improving their understanding of the Spanish language and Cuban culture.
One student said, “I feel that the program exceeded its goals of enriching our student experience. We were fully immersed in Cuban society and saw firsthand what life is like from an abundance of personal interaction, visits to places of cultural and historical significance, and an openness to learn that was fostered by the accompanying faculty.”
Another student shared the same perspective. “One of the greatest benefits of the trip was interacting with the Cuban people and truly engaging and sharing knowledge and information about our respective lives. I will never forget this trip.”
All student comments are anonymous as they were taken from the post-trip on-line survey, which had an 80 percent response rate.