Friday, February 3, 2012

Tulane Restores Summer Program

Stone Center revives Cuba student abroad

POSTED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2012 6:45 AM | UPDATED: 6:51 AM, FRI FEB 3, 2012.


The Stone Center for Latin American Studies will offer a new summer study abroad program in Cuba beginning in 2012.

The Stone Center had a popular Cuba program until 2004, when regulations tightened and schools were no longer allowed to have programs of less than 12 weeks in Cuba.

"But we kept our eyes on Cuba," said Valerie Marshall, Stone Center director of planning and management. "When [President Barack] Obama rolled back regulations, we jumped on it."

The four-week program is based in Havana but includes trips outside the capital to show students more of the country.

"The idea is to bring our students there to learn about the culture and the history of Cuba," program manager Natalia Porto said.

The Stone Center believes in the importance of having a program in Cuba in spite of the challenges it poses. Lauren Toppenberg, an alumna of the Office of Study Abroad's Cuba semester program, agrees.

"My interest was first sparked when my dad went on a legitimate trip to the island when I was 8 and promptly had his souvenirs destroyed by Dallas customs on his way home," Toppenberg said. "Finally, after taking many classes on Latin America and Cuba itself, I realized that I was never going to be able to actually understand Cuba without going there myself."

Even with lowered restrictions on travel to Cuba, maintaining a program there is still difficult.

"It is really hard to run a study abroad program with a country where you can't use a credit card," Marshall said.

In addition to the Cuba program, Tulane is introducing several other study abroad summer locations, which will send students to Cadiz, Spain; Cape Town, South Africa; and Paris.

"There is a definite need for summer programs," Director of Study Abroad Peter Alongia said. "We send a lot of students out on summer programs by other providers, and we recognized a need to have our own Tulane Study Abroad summer programs."

The summer programs run for four weeks.

"All of the programs will take into account the setting of the country they are in and are geared to that location in some way," Alongia said.

In Cape Town, for example, students will take a class in Xhosa, one of the official languages.

Porto said both the Stone Center and the Office of Study Abroad are dedicated to giving students more options to study in a foreign country.

"It can help you learn a new way of living," Porto said. "Without being exposed to different ways of life, you just aren't getting today's world."

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