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Study Abroad in Cuba: An exploration of a country in transition

Jul 18, 2017

Flagler College students witnessed first-hand the changes Cuba is experiencing, as the socialist country grapples with the impact of its revolutionary past and uncertain future. As part of this summer’s study abroad trip to Cuba, Assistant Professor Tracey Eaton guided students on a Cuban adventure. They met Cuban entrepreneurs, artists, farmers, guides and other locals who shared their perspectives on economic and social conditions, mass tourism, property disputes between the United States and Cuba, the Cuban missile crisis and more.

The 13-day itinerary included a tour of old Havana, local markets, the Christopher Columbus cemetery, area farms, a once-popular sulfur spring, La Guira National Park, tobacco fields and a tropical forest. 

Photo credit: Tracey Eaton

Cuban farmer working in his field

“Everyone grows up, one way or another, with a preconceived map of the world in their heads. We are given this map by what our parents tell us, by what we see on the news, by what we hear from friends – and after a while, it can make the world seem like it’s a dangerous, hostile place. I picked up the notion growing up that Cuba was some totalitarian hell where everyone was miserable. But being able to go with (Professor) Tracey Eaton on this trip opened my eyes to the beauty of this country and the color of its people. I realized that Cuba is far more multi-layered, complex and beautiful than the stereotype I unwittingly believed all my life.” — Jared Olson

A picture of Hannah Pierce.

“As a Theatre major, I’m a storyteller, but it’s difficult to tell stories if you haven’t experienced them or met people who have. Cuba opened my mind to countless stories of resilience, kindness, perseverance, and creativity. I will carry my experience of the island and the experiences of the Cubans I met with me for the rest of my life.” — Hannah Pierce (pictured above)

A picture of Flagler students on stairs while studying abroad in Cuba.

“We did so much during our trip, but I think my favorite parts were talking to independent journalists about how they operate in Cuba, going on hikes in the countryside and in Topes de Collantes National Park and getting to know everyone on our trip, both students and Cubans who came on the trip and helped us along the way.” — Katie Garwood

Cuban guide

“It was my first time out of the country and I realized quickly that when you travel abroad you learn more about your own country than those you travel to. We said stepping off the plane back at Orlando airport felt like sensory overload with all the advertisements and lights and signs and sounds. My parents live in Illinois so I'm closer to Cuba than home, yet the Cubans live in another world. Their generosity is really incredible, given the circumstances of their countrywide poverty.” — Austin Sanchez

Farmer and girl walking down a dirt path with two dogs.

Going to Cuba was an extremely impactful experience. So few Americans get the chance to see what Cuba is like firsthand, and I feel so lucky that I was able to. I learned what Cubans are really like and even though their lives are far from easy, you'd never be able to tell from the way they act.” — Katie Garwood

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