Havana, Cuba

International Political Economy

Reflection written by Lina Machado from the 2015 Cuba trip.

Students stand in a garden listening to a woman talking

Urban Farm, Havana, Cuba

This trip was an amazing experience especially due to the fact that we got to go in the precise moment when things are rapidly changing for Cuba. I was extremely lucky to go back to this beautiful country and being able to witness and compare all the differences that President Obama’s executive action of 2014 have generated in the country. Even more special, we got the chance to be there just a couple days before President Obama’s arrival to the island, which marked an historical day as no U.S president had visited the country in decades. As a political science student I was able to experience, compare, contrast and witness the real consequences that politics, diplomacy and policy making (especially in the foreign policy area) can have in reality instead of only reading about them on textbooks, and I believe this is the most important thing about the wonderful opportunity of study abroad. Throughout our careers, we get to read so much about so many different subjects and places.

Monument with a horse and rider on top.

Monument to Maximo Gomez, Havana, La Habana Vieja, Cuba

History is fascinating, and we need to learn about it in order to understand the present in any field we are studying. However, most of the time this is the furthest we get to go when learning: reading about it in a book. Study abroad programs give you the amazing opportunity to learn so many of these things first hand, and trust me reading about the first try to overthrow Batista’s government in Cuba in the 50’s is not the same as walking around the presidential palace (today the museum of revolution) and even see the bullet holes in the walls of the palace. Living and experiencing the reality of concepts, the consequences of decisions, walking through the places where history took place, where important moments that changed the history of a whole nation occurred, being able to talk to locals about their lives, and experiencing a new place are some of the may thing you will never be able to learn from a textbook, and what makes studying abroad so fascinating and such a life changing experience that would affect and change us nor only personally but also academically in a way that we cannot imagine.

Graffiti of a black outline of a face against blocks of color.

Street Art: Ché Guevarra

This trip also gave me the amazing opportunity to learn how people live in other countries, and to once again understand how privileged I am. This is important for me not only on my personal life and growth, but also professionally. As professionals, regardless of which career we choose, we need to have an understanding of humanity, and compassion for others and their situations. Being humane not only makes us better people, it also makes us better professionals no matter what our field of work is. We also must understand the world that is around us, and stop living in a bubble where we think the only reality is the one that surrounds us. As a matter of fact, I think that during this specific trip many students witnessed how their bubbles popped when they experienced and saw with their own eyes how people in developing countries live, especially in a socialist country, and experienced what many people do not have the chance to experience. I honestly believe that every single person should have the chance to live an experience like this because it not only helps to learn a lot about various themes (during this trip we had amazing lectures), but it also open our eyes to a whole new reality we did not know existed, and this will change our lives forever, hopefully in a good way.