This past summer two different departments came together to take a group of students to Cuba to study abroad for the first time. Journalism students from the Hall School of Journalism and Spanish students from the Department of Modern Languages went to Cuba for 12 days to learn about the culture, the people and the language of the country.
Dr. Kirby of the Hall School of Journalism and Dr. Alberich of the Department of Modern Languages were the faculty co-leaders for the trip.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been to Cuba. I’ve taken students abroad to Costa Rica for the past five years but this is the first time I’ve ever been to Cuba,” said Dr. Alberich.
“Doc Kirby had been to Cuba several times, so that’s why we made a good team. I’d taken to students abroad and he’d been to Cuba, just not with students. My language skills and his knowledge of the island and his context made for an excellent trip.”
The group visited the three major cities in Cuba: Havana, Holguin and Santiago. The group participated in all of the tourist attractions offered to visitors in these cities.
Each of the four students were given a topic or piece of history that related to Cuba, and throughout the trip the students visited sites regarding the topics they were all given.
This provided an opportunity for each student to give a small lecture on a piece of history while the group visited the historical sites.
“We each had to give a speech and teach the rest of the group about the places that we were going to see or about specific events,” said Haley Davies, a senior anthropology major from Auburn. “I had to talk about Christopher Columbus because we went to the beach where he landed.”
Historically, the relationship between Cuba and the United States has been a rocky one. This did impact the group’s trip, but only slightly.
Some of the government-ran or political museums and attractions would not let the American group in.
Davies went as far to say that they closed museums as soon as the group approached with a tour guide.
While this could hinder some people’s choice of whether or not to go on a trip like this, the hospitality and kindness of the Cuban people was undeniable for Troy’s students.
“I went into Cuba worrying that, as Americans, they would hate us. It was nothing like that at all. The people were so open and loving they wanted us to have the times of our lives and experience their day to day lives,” said Rachel Wallace, a senior broadcast journalism major from Helena.
Dr. Kirby, who has taken multiple trips to Cuba and has built many friendships and connections in the country, introduced the group to a lot of the people who he knows in Cuba that they could learn from.
“The Cubans are generally a joyful people who do not consider the problems our governments have with each other as affecting their pleasure in being our friends,” said Dr. Kirby.
When asked, both of the interviewed students said that they would recommend for any person to take this trip.
“We are already trying to plan to do this trip again. It taught the students about the culture and the language, but also a lot about themselves,” said Dr. Alberich in regards to whether this trip will be offered again.