CUBA PILOT PROGRAM
My perception of Cuba before going on this trip was completely different to what I actually experienced and witnessed there. It exceeded all my expectations and I would never have had this wonderful opportunity if it wasn’t for MIIS. When I arrived in Havana, I was drawn to the Caribbean feel that I got, as everything seemed so tropical, there were palm trees everywhere, and it felt like summer. However, this is a typical tourist sensation and I didn’t want to engage in this program with that type of perspective. I wanted to experience the Cuban culture, the people, and learn about how their daily lives are instead of thinking what tourists would do there. There is a clear and distinct contrast between the Havana aimed at tourists and the Havana that citizens experience. This program gave me the experience to engage in both and be able to compare and contrast in order to further evaluate their model of development. One of my personal favorite experiences on this trip was meeting with a political delegate in the Capitol building. This was a privilege to be able to join in, as not everyone is able to have this opportunity. It was fascinating to hear a Cuban politician talk about his jobs and duties and answer our questions. My other favorite activity was visiting a marginalized community that had an art center, which was an initiative to clean up a desolate area and create a voice for this neighborhood that was often overlooked by the rest of society. Through this trip, I was able to see how sustainable development can take place on a smaller scale and yet make a big difference. I learned that Cuba is a country that is constantly changing, yet it embraces its roots and is a nation full of pride because they have worked hard to get where they are. While many aspects of its political sphere are controversial, seeing this place in person gives you that visual image that explanations lack. You are able to come up with a new perspective and see things through a new lens. I definitely recommend other students studying International Policy and Development to visit Cuba because I personally have gained incredible insight in this field and can now use what I have learned to help me in my future career endeavors. Also, new perspectives and gaining knowledge through travel is something that can only be attained by actually being present in these places and engaging yourself with the culture and people. This was a truly remarkable experience that I will carry with me forever.