Students at UCLA are now able to study abroad in Havana, Cuba during the summer as part of a newly created faculty-led program offered through the university.
UCLA joins UC Davis as the only two UC campuses that offer a Havana-based summer study abroad program in the country. Previously, UCLA students depended on programs offered through other institutions to study abroad in Cuba in the summer.
Interim Director of Marketing & Communications of UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) Briana Sapp said faculty-led programs differ from UCEAP programs in that faculty-led programs are typically smaller than average UCEAP programs.
“Individual campuses can start their own faculty-led program,” Sapp said. “So those are small programs maybe 20, 30, 40 students that go with one faculty member or maybe two faculty members on a specific program.”
Sapp said faculty-led programs resemble extensions of traditional UC classes as opposed to the immersive experiences often offered by most other UCEAP programs.
“It’s like taking one class with your professor but on site, so in a different location,” Sapp said, “We do exchange programs, we do internship programs, research programs, so it’s a much bigger organization than one faculty member taking a few students on a specific program to a specific city.”
According to UC Davis Study Abroad Programs Manager and last year’s Program Coordinator for Cuba Rosana Avila, faculty-led programs start as a proposal from faculty or professor, then if the proposal is accepted it is developed and offered to students through the campus’ study abroad program.
Avila said the UC Davis Study Abroad Program aims to compliment material taught in regular UC courses.
“We want our programs to offer a lot of experiential learning in addition to the classes the instructor is giving [in] the lectures,” Avila said. “There are also trips for instance that are building to the program that is tied to the curriculum of the course.”
UCEAP has future plans for program development in Cuba and looks to establish relations with local universities in the area, Sapp said.
“We have started talking internally about what kinds of programs or what kind of students might be interested, what subjects,” Sapp said. “So once we sort of figure that out than we can start exploring if there are any partners in Cuba that would want to work with us.”
According to Sapp, there are concerns about establishing a new program in the wake of recent changes in U.S.-Cuba relations. On Dec. 17 of last year, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. will work to normalize relations with Cuba, a nation that has been affected by a U.S. trade embargo for over 50 years.
“We are in a waiting period because the policy is new and President Obama has an initiative but we still have to work everything through Congress and really open up fully to keep a relationship,” Sapp said.
Sapp said UCEAP will monitor developments in the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba before seeking to create additional programs.
“It is definitely something that we are interested in and we are exploring ideas but we don’t have a specific partner or program we are trying to get approved yet,” Sapp said.
San Miguel Multicultural Awareness Co-Chair and first-year Chican@ studies major Alondra Garcia said she believes having a study abroad program in Cuba would enhance students’ college experience in a distinct way often unavailable to many students studying in the U.S.
“People from our school not having an opportunity to go to Cuba is basically depriving them of the chance to be having a diverse education,” Garcia said. “By us not having our students go to Cuba and different areas like that we are kind of rejecting the idea that they should have an opportunity to grow as a person.”