Hometown: Lenexa, Kansas
Where I studied abroad: Havana, Cuba
Major: BioEnvironmental Engineering
Favorite Foreign Food: Fried ripe plantains
Favorite city/site visited while abroad: We went to Trinidad one weekend and hiked through the jungle to a waterfall where we went cliff jumping, an absolutely amazing experience.
My next trip is going to be to: Oregon and California to visit some of the friends I met while studying abroad in Cuba!
Advice for future study abroad students: Being in a city for longer periods of time gives you the unique opportunity to really get to know a city and its culture, so skip the touristy spots, get to know the locals, and see where they take you!
I fell in love with Cuba my first night. It would be crazy to fall in love so quickly in the United States, but Cuba is a country of love and romance. After a classic Cuban meal of rice and beans, sweet fried plantains, salad, pork, and potatoes we ran down to catch the sunset on the Malecón, the 8 kilometer sea wall that stretches from Vedado to Old Havana. They call the Malecón 'The Sofa of Cuba' because it is where you can find families, friends, and couples sitting at all hours of the day enjoying the views and each other’s company. As we walked, talked, and felt the sea spray from the waves crashing against the Malecón, I knew I was in for an amazing seven weeks. Starting that night, and every day after, shouts of “I loooooove you," “Beautiful," and “Where are you from?” followed us everywhere we went. Piropos are a part of the Cuban culture and can even be a little charming, comparable to English pick-up line. As my professor jokingly put it, the day a Cuban woman walks the streets and doesn’t receive a single compliment is the day she heads to the plastic surgeon. Cubans also show their love to their fellow compatriots through 'la bottela.' Private car ownership is rare in Cuba, so many people hitchhike, or 'take the bottle," to work. There is also a collective taxi system in Cuba which only costs $0.50 a ride, but only runs along the main streets—not to your specific location. This taxi system not only allowed for us to get a better handle of Havana’s geography, but also for lots of interesting conversations with the locals. The Cubans are all very well educated and interested in world events, so I was always being asked if I was for Hillary or Trump and if I knew about Obama visiting. Just as the Cubans aren’t afraid of giving a stranger a ride to work, they also aren’t afraid of salsa dancing with an obviously uncoordinated outsider. After a couple salsa lessons, all I needed was a partner that counted “uno, dos, tres,*pausa* cinco, seis, siete,” to have those Dirty Dancing Havana Nights moves.
The Capitolio and classic Cuban cars.
Admiring the molgotes in Viñales. Later we would go horseback riding through those tobacco fields and learn how to roll cigars.
Enjoying the rainbow from the rooftop of the Inglaterra hotel before attending the national ballet in the Grand National Theatre pictured behind us.
“I truly lived the dream in Cuba! Couldn’t have asked for better living arrangements, food, or opportunities for adventure!"