Over winter break, twenty-four students from Global Affairs, Economics, and Government & International Politics escaped frigid weather and a snowstorm with MasonAbroad in Havana, Cuba. The program “Foreign Investment and Global Integration” with academic director Lisa Breglia brought its sixth cohort of students January 5-19th, 2019 to the University of Havana's Center for Research on International Economy (CIEI). The unique program allowed students to engage with Cuba’s top economists, political scientists, and others in order to study topics ranging from the effects of the fall of the Soviet Union on the Cuban economy, the transitioning state of the Cuban economy, to the country’s prospects for political relations with the US after the hopes of the Obama’s diplomatic opening have significantly waned. Students also learned about the upcoming referendum on the new constitution, to be held on February 24––which is widely supported.
In addition to formal lectures at the CIEI, students filled their afternoons with site visits to a variety of organizations and community centers. A tour of farm just outside of the city gave students the opportunity to learn how cooperative farming went organic following the country’s fuel shortage crisis in the 1990s. Insight into the social lives of Cuban youth, families, and educational system was gained through visits to organizations such as the Centro de Estudios sobre la Juventud (Center for the Study of Youth) and CENESEX, the Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (the National Center for Sex Education), which works across the country to provide research, trainings, educational programs and workshops, and support for all matters related to gender and sexuality, including discrimination and violence issues. One issue discussed was how the new constitution, if approved, will recognize same-sex marriage in Cuba.
"One of the greatest things about trip to Cuba was our ability to instantly connect with Cuban students. It was like we knew how special the relationships we were making would be." Kelsie Rohler, Global Affairs, MA
Mason students gained deepest insight into differences and similarities in the daily lives of Cubans through one-on-one meetings with other college students and a day spent with a typical family in the countryside of Pinar del Rio. On a visit to an urban community center, the group donated backpacks filled with school supplies, and, in turn, was treated to musical performances of the residents of Havana’s oldest neighborhood.
January 28, 2019