Berkeley Study Abroad offers summer program in Havana, Cuba

“Berkeley Study Abroad offers summer program in Havana, Cuba”

by Ishaan Srivastava via “The Daily Californian

cubaWITHCORRECTIONS-01

After a historic resumption of U.S.–Cuba diplomatic relations and a relaxation of bilateral tensions, Berkeley Study Abroad is now offering a summer study abroad program in Havana, Cuba.

The course provides students with the opportunity to spend one month exploring the geographical and historical transformation of Cuba from colonial times to the present, all while living and studying in “the spirited capital of Cuba.”

“Cuba is — and has always been — a marvelous and fascinating country,” said program director Elizabeth Vasile. “It is a great place to see rapid transformation taking place.”

Vasile, who received her doctorate in geography from UC Berkeley and now conducts research in Latin America, has been leading tours of Cuba for about five years on behalf of organizations such as National Geographic. She approached the geography department chair and study abroad office last year with plans for the program, and received swift approval.

“Unlike a traditional classroom, we’re going to be going out in the field and observing the landscape for ourselves,” Vasile said, adding that her two primary objectives for the program are to instill in students a nuanced understanding of the complexity of Cuban history and the ability to critically observe the world around them.

Peer institutions such as Harvard College and Princeton University have offered similar programs even before President Barack Obama announced his intention to renew diplomatic ties with Cuba. The campus had previously offered a similar program that lasted from 1999 to 2003.

Other organizations such as the travel agency Marazul — which will be providing logistical assistance for UC Berkeley’s program this summer — have been organizing visits to Cuba since 1979.

Members of UC Berkeley’s faculty have maintained professional ties to Cuba despite longstanding diplomatic tensions. Anthropology professor Nancy Scheper-Hughes fondly remembers having invited Cuban medical professionals for a seminar in the early ‘90s, noting that then-Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien was happy to write a letter officially inviting her guests onto campus.

“He even asked whether we could invite Fidel Castro,” Scheper-Hughes said. “That would probably have been a step too far.”

According to Scheper-Hughes, such programs provide students with an opportunity to experience Cuba “before it becomes totally neoliberalized.”

Despite a history of bilateral political animosity, both Scheper-Hughes and Vasile said student safety would not be of exceptional concern in Cuba. Kaylee Yoshii, a campus senior who has visited Cuba multiple times on research trips,noted that the attitude toward Americans in Cuba is welcoming despite the decades of diplomatic hostility.

READ MORE

Advertisements

Before You #StudyAbroad in the UK: A To-Do and Don’t-Do List

“Before You Study Abroad in the UK: A To-Do and Don’t-Do List”

by Roslyn Kent via “Huffington Post

Failing to prepare is like preparing to fail; get organized, check off that list and do your research before you go overseas to the United Kingdom–you won’t regret be over prepared.

It’s normal to be overwhelmed by all the check lists, packing lists and shopping lists that you’ll undoubtedly be inundated with prior to leaving for your exchange in the UK. Emotions aside, the last thing you’ll want to deal with before you leave is the logistics of your exchange; unfortunately, your mom can’t do it all for you. Not sure what you’ll need while overseas? Here’s what you should and shouldn’t do prior to leaving for your whirlwind study abroad experience:

Don’t:

1. Overpack: You won’t be wanting to bring all your unnecessary bulky toiletries. You will be able to buy almost all of them there (unless you need to use specific brands) and chances are, they’ll be even cheaper overseas (hello Poundland!).

2. Buy a roaming package for your phone: Phone plans are dirt cheap in the UK (the cheapest you’ll pay is £5/month or at the most, £15/month, which will probably included unlimited data and lots of texting and calling). If you extend your phone plan from home it will still cost you more, especially for data–you’ll want data in case you get lost. Try to get a month by month plan so you’re not tied down to anything. If you can, sign up with Three Mobile, that way you can use your phone for free in 10 other countries in Europe!

3. Pay for unnecessary visas: Make sure you’re aware of exactly which visa you’ll need while in the UK. It’s likely your home university’s study abroad office will assist you in this, but avoid seeking advice elsewhere (i.e. from friends who’ve never studied abroad). If you’re a citizen of a commonwealth country then you won’t have to pay for a visa at all if you only plan to stay in the UK for six months. Research the different options and be wary of paying for a visa you won’t need.

4. Bring your hair dryer and straightener: If you want to avoid bringing home a broken hair dryer/straightener, it’s highly advisable that you buy a cheap one over there and share with your roommates. Oftentimes, North American hair dryers and straighteners aren’t equipped to handle the voltage of a UK outlet. If you’re certain yours can handle it then go ahead and bring it with you, if not, it’s better to be safe than sorry! . . .

READ MORE

Student studies abroad three semesters, makes lifetime of memories

“Student studies abroad three semesters, makes lifetime of memories”

by Matthew McClure via “The Lamron”

Coming to Geneseo, I knew I wanted to study abroad for at least a year. I knew I wanted to go beyond my past linguistic and travel experience in Europe. This semester, I am returning from three semesters of studying abroad in Vietnam, Canada and Haiti. Study abroad has been an incredibly formative part of my undergraduate career—and my future plans—in both expected and unexpected ways.

The Global Service Learning Program in Borgne, Haiti proved to be a turning point for me. Through this program, I applied my interests in foreign language, intercultural competence and international education to connecting communities in Borgne and Geneseo. My experience in spring 2013 not only focused my academic interests, study abroad plans and career goals, but also had a lasting impact beyond that one semester. My service learning project became the design and organization of a Haitian Creole language preparation component for the course.

Immediately after the Global Service Learning Program, I knew I wanted to learn Haitian Creole and return to Borgne to help develop our program and relationship with the community. I traveled to Boston to attend the Haitian Creole Language and Culture Summer Institute, working with leading Haitian Creole scholars and collecting resources and teaching methods in order to help improve our Haitian Creole crash-course at Geneseo. As a result, I was selected to the Clinton Global Initiative University in 2015 to help support the first public library in Borgne.

In the fall of my junior year, I spent my first semester abroad in Vietnam. I went into the semester expecting a wildly new experience; one where I would learn an exotic new language. What I got was a semester where I was not only independent, but also the only native English speaker in my class. After learning Vietnamese, I could communicate with the locals and also speak to the internationals that spoke English. I met an extraordinary variety of people, both in Ho Chi Minh City and on my travels in Southeast Asia.

Perhaps the most surprising group I met in Vietnam was the Saigon Swing Cats. I had fallen in love with swing dance my freshman year, but I did not expect to find a club in Vietnam. It was a fascinating mix of locals and expatriates—mostly young professionals—gathering together to dance a vintage American dance. This is where I saw the overlap between my international interests and my dance interests. . . .

READ MORE