As the semester comes to an end, two students have the privilege of taking an exciting, educational adventure. Amber Hagin and Adonica Stewart, both seniors majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication, will be journeying to the Cuba to report and write news articles.
“At first I was like, ‘Wait, do you mean Cuba?’ ” said Amber Hagin. “When my internship professor suggested studying abroad, I never would have thought I would go to Cuba.”
“When I found out there was an opportunity waiting for me, I didn’t waste any time deciding whether to go,” Stewart added. “Not many people can or will have this opportunity.”
The two students from Saint Augustine’s University will be joined by two faculty members from Saint Augustine’s as well as representatives from several other institutions including Duke University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and North Carolina Central. The group will leave on May 15 and return on May 24.
The purpose of the trip is to study Afro-Cuban culture, identity and community development as the island nation evolves in response to President Barack Obama’s recent initiatives to re-engage with Cuba and end America’s longtime embargo against the communist nation.
“This trip establishes Saint Augustine’s University as a leader among HBCU’s in the education abroad space,” said Dr. Kanton Reynolds, the university’s director of international programs, who was instrumental in setting up the trip and will also travel with the students. “It demonstrates our ability to bring together scholars from across the academic spectrum in a collective effort to understand an emerging phenomenon; in this case the marginalization and underdevelopment of people of color in a country where social, political and economic institutions are supposedly by definition and practice inherently devoid of bias.”
Angelis Rodriguez, Assistant Professor of Social Work at Saint Augustine’s, will also travel with the group.
Participants will learn about the Afro-Cuban culture and the general atmosphere of the country. Cuba has been isolated from the United States since 1962, when the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, embraced communism and aligned his country with the Soviet Union. Until recently, commercial airliners were not allowed to fly from the United States to Cuba. President Obama has recently succeeded in opening up Cuba for regular commercial flights.
Participants have been receiving emails from Cuban government officials. “It was kind of cool to see the government of a nation emailing me,” said Hagin. “They were telling me what I could and could not bring in and out of the country. It really shows you how unique this trip is relative to other studying abroad opportunities.”
Organizers of the trip aim to bring participants closer the actual culture of a country and away from tourism sites, Dr. Reynolds added. Hagin and Stewart are looking forward to seeing a country most Americans know little about.
“I am really excited to hear the music of the country,” she said. “It will be really cool to see the antique cars driving around. I expect the culture to be completely different from the U.S., and it will be very interesting to see how people live in a different environment.”
“I have never been outside of North Carolina. …I feel like I’m very lucky,” Stewart said.
— Connor Hughes