Wednesday, February 1, 2012

USC: An Example of a Student Trip

EDHE 832: Comparative Higher Education

This will be an exciting once-in-a-lifetime learning experience. See the itinerary on the left side of this page.

Trip Highlights
Highlights of the trip include (exact itinerary details subject to fluctuation):
  1. Lectures by professors at the University of Havana, including ones about Cuban history by director of the center for Cuba USA Studies and others about modern Cuba and a tour of the University (founded in 1728).
  2. A day focused on en environmental education including lecture by the national environmental education from Cuban Ministry of Education followed by an afternoon at the Parque Metropolitano, an ecological park  being studied by Havana schools and universities, 
  3. A day focused on the history of Cuba with site visits to Habana Vieja (Old Havana) to learn about historic restoration projects followed by an afternoon with Dr. Delio Carrera, historian of the University of Havana  and professor of history and law,
  4. A day focused on life in urban Cuba with a visit a local organic farm El Vivero in a populated neighborhood, followed by lunch hosted by a ceramist and painterJose Fuster,
  5. A day at the Technical University of Havana, including lunch with students from various faculties (colleges) of the university,
  6. Overnight trip to Cienfuegos and Perch√© to see other parts of Cuba and learn about Colonial Cuba (including a UNESCO heritage site), about city conservation and restoration, as well as having plenty of free time to explore, and a night of dinner and dancing,
  7. We will wrap in Havana with free time to explore, closing out our time with a farewell dinner at the famousGato Tuerto restaurant,
  8. Free time will allow you to explore more about the universities, the cities we visit, and sites like Ernest Hemingway’s house
The Class
The dates for the trip coincide with Spring Break: March 1st – 10th.  We will meet as a class during the regular Thursday evening class slot on Thursday evenings and then not have class meetings, except one at the end of the semester, after the trip. Jennifer Engel, director of Study Abroad and Ph.D. candidate in higher education, will be the program assistant. She has been to Cuba once before, and describes Cuba as being the most complex and contradictory place she has traveled to. Like me, she is fluent in Spanish. Language proficiency is not required for the trip.
A Unique Opportunity
As you know, the history of Cuban-American relations is complex. The U.S. government recently eased restrictions on academic travel, which is what allowed us to make this trip happen. When further restrictions on general travel will be lifted is unknown; regulations could also change in the future with a change in U.S. president and restrict American academic travel again. As such, this will be a unique opportunity to see and experience a country restricted to most Americans.
I had a similar experience by traveling to the U.S.S.R. in 1988 as Gorbachev was introducing his policies of Glasnost and Perestroika that began to open up the Soviet Union internally and to foreigners. Very few Americans had been to the Russia at the time I visited and it was a fascinating snapshot in time of a society on the brink of change. (The U.S.S.R. collapsed in 1991.) Of course, I can return to Russia an the Ukraine, but I can never return the Soviet Union.
We hoped to make this announcement right at the beginning of the semester. However, finalizing the itinerary and arrangements has taken longer than expected because of how the Cuban government handles approval of these requests.
The other delay has been in trying to finalize the cost. The cost is $2,990 (including flight, hotel, excursions and entrance fees, gratuities, group land travel, and many meals). We negotiated as low of a price as possible (the original quote was considerably higher). This cost is due to a few factors out of our control. First, the only way to travel to Cuba from the United States is by charter flight from Miami so flight prices are not competitive. Second, the Cuban government requires we have a host with us at all times for the visits on our itinerary (but not for when you have free time), which is helpful, but also costly. And finally, the Cuban government sets prices for tourists and they adjust prices based on the country of origin and, not unexpectedly, set the highest price for Americans. 

The Spring Semester 2012 HESA Study Abroad Program is headed to Cuba! 

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