SBCC study abroad heads back to Cuba in summer 2017

KATHYVAN TRAN, Channels Staff

When Spanish Major Tanja Reutimann, 47, told a local that she wanted to ride the Cuban bus, the man smiled and said, “Es lo mejor!” Which is Spanish for “It’s the best!”

Little did she realize that these Cuban buses were so crammed, people even hang from their sides. Reutimann rode the jam-packed bus during the 2015 winter break Cuba study abroad program.

“That is the Cuban humor— sarcasm,” Reutimann said. “The circumstances are so dire there that they developed this sense of humor that came with the embargo.”

Students will get the opportunity to travel to Cuba and experience things like the crowded bus during the upcoming study abroad program entitled “Spanish Language Summer Program in Havana Cuba,” which is hosted by Spanish professor Dina Castillo and will be from July 2-22, 2017.

“I knew I was going to study abroad before I knew where,” said Computer Engineering major Elliot Brainerd, 19, who applied for the summer program. “At first I was set on Spain. I looked at Cuba and thought this trip would be more worthwhile.”

Students attending the program will be enrolled in either beginning, intermediate or advanced Spanish and will have classes from 9 a.m. to noon, five days a week, Monday through Friday. However, there are no language requirements prior to the program.

“The student can have taken no Spanish whatsoever,” Castillo said. “Students don’t need to have taken 101. They can go and take 101 there and study and they don’t need to be attending City College. They can just register for the summer session and attend.”

Reutimann, who had taken up to Spanish 104 at the time of her Cuba trip, said that other people who had only taken Spanish 101 were still able to navigate around easily.

After classes students participate in activities to help immerse them into the Cuban culture.

“Cuba allows City College to come in as an institution of study,” Castillo said. “They dictate that we must have an activity in the afternoon such as salsa, cooking, music, something to enrich the learning of the foreign language and of the culture.”

Activities planned for the program include salsa lessons, dance performances, sightseeing, and a visit to the Museum of the Revolution, according to the program brochure.

“I love photography, so it’ll be a great opportunity for that,” Brainerd said.

The program costs $4,425, plus airfare and a $450 non-refundable deposit due with the application. There are also opportunities to help students pay for the program– including financial aid, scholarships and deferred payment plans.

“Students have to make sure they’re applying [for financial aid] during the right window for that semester,” said Nicole Walther, senior program assistant for study abroad programs. “We always try to work things out as best as we can.”

At the moment, only one student has signed up for the program, with a total of 20 spots, though that figure may change.

“It’s really up to the program director how many students they are willing to take since they are going to be the ones responsible for them,” Walther said. “In general we encourage all the students to apply early.”

Castillo said she believes studying abroad is a great opportunity to not only learn another language and about another culture, but to learn about yourself too.

“I just think experiencing other cultures is the best way to learn about yourself,” Castillo said.

While Brainerd has traveled before, this will be his first study abroad trip.

“Whenever I come back from different countries my mindset definitely changes permanently,” Brainerd said. “I think it is better to get a different view on different cultures. It makes you a better person.”