Class standing: Senior
Major: Psychology and Afro-American and African
Studies (African American Studies concentration)
Study Abroad: Three weeks in Havana, Cuba
How did you find out about this opportunity and what pushed you to take it?
I had never been out of the country before, and I wanted to take advantage of the study abroad opportunities and resources that the University offers. So, I did some research on the Center for Global and Intercultural Studies (CGIS) website and found the Cuba: Roots, Culture, and Rhythm program. It is one of the Maize Away trips which are shorter in duration, and I thought having a shorter trip might be good for my first time abroad. I really wanted to step out of my comfort zone and travel, and I also saw that it was connected to my DAAS major and interest in the African Diaspora. I had learned about the Caribbean and its connection to the transatlantic slave trade in some of my courses, but I felt like traveling to Cuba would give me a first-hand look at the present-day societies I studied in those classes.
Did anything surprise you about your time in Cuba?
Although the program was focused on Afro-Cuban culture, dance, and music, I honestly was not expecting to see so many Afro-Cubans. I think that media and society have a way of white-washing the reality of places where people of African descent live. I felt a sense of connectedness to self-identified Afro-Cubans who proudly celebrated their African heritage.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
The dance class we took on weekdays was my favorite! We learned dances of Yoruba, Haitian, and Congo origin. They were really high energy dances and required me to let loose and be free. During dance class we were told stories behind some of the dances, and that really allowed us to try to feel and embody those stories through movement.
What was your focus on the trip?
The focus of the trip was to learn the deep roots of Cuban popular music and dance and how those cultural practices have shaped ideas around race and identity in Cuba.
Would you recommend other students to take study abroad opportunities like yours?
I would highly recommend other students take a study abroad opportunity like mine! I learned more about myself as a Black woman and as a first-generation college student while on this trip, and being open to learning about another culture and way of life with an open-minded and respectful group of other students made it even more enjoyable. There are financial resources through the University that allowed me to have this experience without having to worry about financial burdens, so I would definitely speak with Financial Aid and the LSA Scholarships Office or other departmental scholarships if you are interested!
Interested in future study abroad opportunities? Contact Matthew Washington, Student Services Coordinator, to find the right program for you!