And so the work begins… (aka Academics Abroad!)

As week 5 comes to a close, I can finally say that I have a finalized academic schedule. That is Cuba for you – nothing truly happens when you think it should but everything ends up working out (for the most part).

One thing I can say is that the university’s  teaching style is much different from that at my liberal arts college. Where as collaboration and discussion is highly encouraged and mandatory, here in Cuba the professor is definitely the center of the classroom. All classes are lecture-based with some small leeway for questions and some scheduled seminar sessions to share one opinions on the class content. This is something I am getting used to as not only does it feel a bit passive but the language barrier sometimes plays a big role in my overall comprehension of a lesson. Nonetheless, my teachers are dynamic and with majority of them being women, I am amazed to find that women here to are at the top  of academia. Here is a small gist of all of my classes thus far:
Idioma Español Avanzado (Advanced Spanish Language)
Here is my class that meets two times a week at the department of Non- Spanish speakers. For el dia de amor (Valentine’s Day) we exchanged gifts for secret admirers. It was a cute way to have a structured grammar lesson outside of the usual classroom. Our teacher, María Borges uses conversational teaching to reinforce concepts that we have overlooked in order to improve or grammatical accuracy in the Spanish language.
Literatura española II y Estudios afrocaribeños
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My Spanish Literature and Afro-Caribbean studies courses both take place at the Arts and Letters Department. The mural above greets you as you enter the building, a reminder of the effect that capitalism has on the 99% of the world. Both classes consist of majority lectures with homework consisting of responses to the content discussed in class. Rather than a typical textbook, students receive course syllabi and readings from the teacher via save documents on their USB memory drives. After every class the teacher points to what scanned documents should be read for the next class meeting. This is a whole new concept to me as I am used to having core textbooks with supplemental reason on Moodle. However, it is interesting to see how this is one of the primary ways for information from homework to movies and shows are disseminated amongst the Cuban people.
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La Universidad de La Habana

Realidades Sociales y Culturales de Cuba 
My core program course, “Social and Cultural Realities of Cuba”, just started this week! This class will be taught by several professors from the University in a variety of topics including Cuban culture, the role of gender and sex in society, religion, and even the history of the University itself. After each segment, we are required to submit a response to what we have learned. At the end of the course, each of us will present on a topic of our choice. I think this is a great way for us to learn more about the inner workings of this complex country while allowing our personal interests to shine through.
For a week some of my classes did not meet. This was due to the Feria de Libros  (International Book Fair) held centrally at the Fortaleza de la Cabaña. From the 11th to 21st of February first and third year students as well as their professors worked the country’s largest fair devoted to literacy. Vendors from various countries including Spain, Peru, the United States, Bolivia, and Mexico sold books covering a variety of topics for the youngest to oldest of readers. As a country that boasts a high literacy rate amongst its population, this fair was a physical manifestation of  this fact. I had the pleasure to meet one of the few American vendors that happened to be a woman from Brooklyn, NY. Many of her titles focused on the African diaspora.
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My mom always told me that reading was fundamental and that education was the true key to success. After experiencing the book fair and seeing the crowds of people with books in hands from all different neighborhoods, it seems as if the Cuban people would have to agree! 😁

Panoramic view of the Feria de Libros from La Fortaleza de la Cabaña

Up next – my extra curricular activities and profiles of some of the amazing people in have met thus far here in Cuba! ¡Hasta luego!

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