What I got from my study abroad experience in Cuba
Though Viva Cuba technically translates to “long live Cuba”, the frequent tone in which we exclaimed “Viva Cuba!” prior to doing something out of our comfort zone while in Cuba was that of, “Live Cuba”; live like Cuba, do something new, that you wouldn’t or cant do back home in the states, take advantage of what very well could be a once in a lifetime opportunity. The study abroad trip was my first time traveling out of the country and was the definition of eye opening and humbling.
Having come form a close nit family, we had a tendency to share similar views on the world, though I always saw myself leaning further and further from the norm house hold opinions with each year. However none of my family had really traveled out of the country prior to my study abroad trip, at least not in the same way; my brother being a submariner in the navy has spent every deployment of the past four years only shortly docking in the same few countries and not getting to really experience those other cultures in the same way, and my father having been confined to either the on site housing or an ocean side resort for weekend day trips while working in the Dominican Republic doing environmental work, also had little time to truly explore. Though I like to think of myself as an understanding and empathetic person to other peoples situations, I think everyone does as well. But little did I know the difference that comes with simply hearing about, seeing on TV, or reading about situations in other countries, vs getting to be their while staying in private homes and interacting with really only locals and very few other tourists. “You never really know until you go” has become a kind of “motto” Ive adopted from, and that sums up, my experience on this trip.
To me this trip meant making real connections, far beyond those you make with people in your own neighborhood or town or country or school or work place; real, life changing and view altering connections. It meant realizing that it is possible for me to do the things I want to do, or even things I never dreamed of doing, being that my decision to go on this study abroad trip to Cuba was something that never even crossed my mind prior to running into a friend who said they were on their way to a meeting for the trip and invited me along. It made me realize that I dont have to wait till im established in a well paying job to be able to travel and see the world. But most importantly, it made events outside of my own life much more real and important to me. Now when I watch the news and hear of struggles and events abroad, I effects me a little more, its a little more real and easier to grasp for me now; easier to grasp that theirs real people living what ever im reading in the new or seeing on TV.
To me “Viva Cuba” truly means so much more for than just “Live Cuba”, it means the world of opportunity I realized I have, regardless of any circumstances thrown my way. But it also means theirs a world and people far beyond my own that I want to experience and meet. Its an experience you dont get without truly spending time encompassing yourself in another culture, and though our trip only lasted 12 days, it made an impression that will last a life time on me.