This study abroad trip to Cuba changed my life. I have traveled to Europe before, but never to a communist country. It was incredible meeting people who have lived through very turbulent times and have continued to prosper. This trip allowed me to really appreciate the small things that I take for granted in the USA, like using a debit card, having access to the internet, and the freedom of speech. This trip will continue to make me appreciate my own access to basic essentials like medicine and shampoo for the remainder of my life.
Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: As a woman, I would always advise other women to be hyper vigilant of your surroundings! Be sure to look up the customs and culture of the country you are going to. Before going to Cuba, I learned that it is common for men to make kissing noises towards women. When this actually happened while I was abroad, I was prepared for it which made adjusting easier. I also knew that most people (men and women) would be respectful of my space. If we were in a crowded area, people would gently move me by placing their hands on my shoulders instead of pushing me or being aggressive. Knowing these things before I left help prepare me for being in the country which allowed me to feel safer.
My most memorable experience while abroad was when another classmate and I went to the University of Havana with one of our tour guides. This small trip was special because the tour guide did not speak much English, but we were still able to engage in great conversation. During this excursion we learned that he had attended the University of Havana, and he was able to give us great insight as to what each building was, what classes were like, and the history of the university.
Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: Studying abroad will change your life! It can be really scary going through the application process, getting visas/passports, not knowing what the country will be like, and being away from the comfort of your own home. That being said, you will have a great time exploring the world and learning more about other people and cultures. Short term programs are great if this is your first time out of the country or if you have an intense program of study that wouldn't let you study abroad for a full semester.
The hardest part about this study abroad trip was that I did not speak Spanish. I didn't realize before I left that I could download google translate for use offline, so I didn't do it. Being in Cuba, I was unable to download any apps once I was in the country. I used this opportunity to learn as much Spanish as I could while in Cuba, and utilized my body language to communicate with my host. Even though we had some funny moments of looking at each other in confusion, we were ultimately able to communicate with one another.