Student Blogs

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 

Medicine and Healthcare in Cuba-Michael Goetsch

The topic of my research project this semester is healthcare. Cuba is reputed to have an exceptional healthcare system. Per capita, they spend a fraction of what we do in the U.S. and oftentimes have better healthcare outcomes. This difference is typically attributed to the Cuban focus on primary care. This semester, I will explore and investigate the Cuban healthcare system and conduct a comparative analysis between the U.S. and Cuban systems. Some of the questions I will seek to answer are: Does universal healthcare in Cuba equate to universal access? What is the average wait time before seeing a physician or other healthcare provider? How easy/difficult is it to see a specialist? Is primary care predominantly provided by physicians or do nurses and nurse practitioners play a role as well? What is the professional relationship between doctors and nurses in Cuba? What is the average wait time before having a necessary surgery? Is prescription medication widely available? Is it expensive or affordable? What is palliative care like in Cuba? How do Cubans view terminal illness, euthanasia, and assisted suicide? In the eyes of average Cubans, what are the best and worst aspects of the healthcare system?

In addition to the patient perspective, I would also like to learn more about the healthcare system from the perspective of the providers. What is the primary motivation for becoming a nurse or physician in Cuba? What is medical education like here? How long is the process? What does it cost? What is the licensing process like? Are Cuban nurses and physicians happy and satisfied with their professions here? Is continuing medical education required? How long is the average medical career here? What are the laws regarding patient privacy? I plan on interviewing doctors, nurses, and everyday Cubans as well as visiting hospitals, clinics, and a medical school to conduct my research. After three months, I hope to gain a holistic view of the Cuban healthcare system as well as an appreciation for its similarities and differences with the U.S. system.


Monday, March 23rd, 2015 

History in the Making- Kyle Jones

On December 18th, 2014, President Barack Obama announced his intention to normalize relations between the United States and the Cuban Republic. In the words of one Cuban newspaper, “It is the most significant change in policy in more than 50 years.” Despite the excitement felt by Americans and Cubans alike, there is still a long road to be traveled with many obstacles before the embargo is lifted and before relations between the United States and Cuba are entirely normalized. While in Cuba I want to study the policy changes being made in the relationship between the governments of the US and Cuba. I want to learn what is the difference between Obama’s efforts and efforts made by past US presidents, as well as policy changes being made by the Cuban Government. I hope to possibly meet with and possibly interview staff from the American Interest Section here in Havana, as well as Cuban foreign policy experts and possibly Foreign Ministry staff. I also want to learn what the general mood is here in Cuba on the change, and how these changes will affect the lives of Cuban citizens for better or worse.

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Monday, March 23rd, 2015 

Cine Cubano- Thomas Kennedy Pope

My semester project will be an inquiry into the Cuban film industry through the point of view of a non-specific, random sampling of Cuban citizens. I hope to discover a few things during this project, including: the general idea of when Cuban cinema launched as an industry, and the characterization of early Cuban films; popular opinion of Cuban films today; a general comparison of the Cuban film industry against the mammoth American film industry; particular niches/genres of Cuban film and production values; and whether or not there is any government presence within the industry or the films themselves. In addition to street interviews, I intend to arrange one or two formal interviews with persons who either work in radio/television/film, or have a proficient to expert knowledge on Cuban cinema (I’ve already been provided with leads for these interviews). Lastly, I intend to generate a direct and personal opinion of Cuban cinema by viewing whatever popular Cuban films I can get my hands on—new or old—while here in Havana. Wish me luck!

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 

The Cuban Woman- Rachel Boudreaux

My project will analyze the role women play in a very “machismo” centered Cuban society. I am interested in investigating the family dynamic within a typical household; if the woman’s role is the archaeic “in the kitchen and taking care of the kids” situation. I would also like to explore their postition within the workforce. My plan is to speak both with women close to my age and those that are more mature to gain a clearer understanding of the role that the average Cuban woman plays in her culture. I am hoping that by interviewing women of different generations, I will be able to see how the role of women in this country has changed over time, if at all. Finally, I am interested in understanding how Cuban society deals with the issue of domestic violence, including abuse, control, and forced silence from the perspective of women within that society.

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 

The Melodies of Cuba- Shelley Campbell

Since our arrival to this island so near, yet seemingly so far from home, there has constantly been a melody in the air. Music holds the beat to the lifestyle here, flowing and bouncing through the streets, from the rooster’s call to the late night clubs. What I find fascinating is the enthusiam and warmth music brings to the society. During my Cuban adventures, I’m excited to discover the process, difficulties, and lifestyle of Cuban musicians. The struggling artist is relatable almost anywhere in the world, but I want to know how one is affected here. More importantly, I am interested in what Cuban music provides to all who are constanly enjoying it. I sense joy and pride in the people here—that their island can produce such beautiful, salsa provoking music so essential to every fiesta. I hope to learn of other aspects of the musical scene such as the types of instruments, how attainable they are, and the process of learning an instrument. I also want to look into the lively musical night life here and how music is a catalyst of energy, which is evident in the character of many people I have already met. Above all, I want to try to uderstand the impact, importance, and social characteristics of music in Cuba today.

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 

Architecture Essay Paragraph- Talia Scarpelli

Behind the bold iron gates and cracking, colorful paint, Havana’s architecture tells a story. From one building to the next, the history of Havana unfolds, from Spanish colonization to the clean modernism of the revolution. The diversity in architectural styles reflects the diversity of the Cuban people as well, and preserves cultural identity. I would like to investigate this topic further and discover how the mixture of styles affect Cubans today. Additionally, I want to know more about how these historic structures are maintained. The environment of a city has tremendous influence on the people living there, so I am excited to learn the stories behind some of Havana’s more architecturally interesting buildings and the public works of art as well.

Thursday, January 15th, 2015 
  1. Gain an understanding of the US-Cuban relationship from the Cuban perspective. I would love to be able to meet with someone in both the US Interest Section and the Cuban Government to talk about what have been some of the difficulties in the past to warming relations between the two countries, and what are some of the hopes for the future (particularly with the new efforts to improve the relationship between the two countries).
  2. Learn about what exactly are the goals of the peace talks and are some of the changes being made between the US and Cuba. It would be a stretch, but I would love to get to go to some kind of press conference/meeting/seminar/ or something where people are talking about the new arrangements and get an idea of what exactly is changing in the relationship between our two countries.
  3. Gain a better understanding of how the Cuban Government works and to get a better understanding of what it truly means to be Socialist. In the US we use socialism/communism like buzzwords for politicians, but very rarely do I think we have a good understanding of what the system truly entails. I would love to get a chance to visit the capital, the Museum of the Revolution, talk with Cuban citizens and officials to get an inside look at what life truly is like in Castro’s Cuba. I would also love to get a chance to talk with veterans of the Revolution and learn what it was like, and how the revolution is perceived by the different generations in Cuba.
  4. I want to learn about youth involvement in politics in Cuba, and see how the next generation of Cuba gets involved in politics and becomes a part of the system. One thing I have never understood about Socialist/ Communist governments is how someone actually gets involved in government and how someone actually becomes a government official (member of the national assembly, politburo, etc.). I hope to get a chance to meet some college students involved in the Young Communist League, or that were involved in the Jose Martí Pioneer Movement when they were younger just to get an idea of what the organizations are like. I would also like to learn why they decided to join, what they hope to do in the future (i.e. pursue something in Public Service), and see how their youth programs compare to American Youth Programs, such as College Republicans or College Democrats.
  5. After reading Adios Hemingway,  I hope to learn about Hemingway’s life in Cuba, as well as learn about Cuban literature and the literary culture in Havana.
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Thursday, January 15th, 2015 
  1. Hablar español exclusivamente, Lograr una mejor fluidez en español. Aprender, por lo menos, 1,000 palabras únicamente cubanas.
  2. Aprender sobre el sistema comunista de Cuba y sus efectos en la gente cubana.
  3. Aprender sobre la historia entre Cuba y Los EEUU, desde la perspectiva cubana.
  4. Conocer a la gente local, hacerme amigos con ellos, y aprender sobre su cultura.
  5. Aprender sobre la medicina cubana, específicamente los cuidados paliativos. (Tema de mi proyecto de investigación).
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Thursday, January 15th, 2015 
  1. From the perspective of the Spanish language my goal is not only to increase my fluency and understanding of Spanish, but to also become more comfortable in speaking it with indigenous Spanish speakers.
  2. I want to learn as much about Cuban culture—likes, dislikes, beliefs, music, entertainment, etc.—as I can, by process of immersion and maintaining an inquisitive mindset while abroad.
  3. From the perspective of a filmmaker I want to learn about my subject(s)—Cuba and the Cuban people—from a humanitarian perspective.
  4. Since the entire trip will consist of many new experiences, a goal I have is to enter the country with somewhat of a “tabula rasa” mindset and try to not bring with me any assumptions, hearsay, or opinions I have of the country and culture, and let experiential learning take over. That way I’ll be able to have an unbiased understanding of the culture—by extension I plan to make a conscious effort not to let my “American South” culture impede on my education of Cuba.
  5. My final goal I have is to be able to interpret and meet the previous four goals to the extent that I can return home and teach others what I have learned in the most honest, impartial, and accurate way possible.
Thursday, January 15th, 2015 
  1. I am eager to become a better Spanish communicator over the semester. I want to try my best to understand their quick dialect and get as much experience speaking to others as possible in order to speak Spanish comfortably in the future.
  2. That in mind, I have another goal to not speak in English unless it is necessary. This is going to be extremely difficult and at some points even aggravating, but as I have been advised by so many, challenging myself outside my American-living, English-speaking comfort zone will benefit me undeniably.
  3. During my time in Havana, I want to explore and continually try my best to understand their culture. This involves their music, literature, and food. Music is very special to me, so my goal is to discover as much beautiful Cuban music to sing and enjoy as possible.
  4. A goal very important to me is to excel in all of my classes. I’m going to strive for a 4.0 GPA this semester, because my grades are critical for my plans of graduate school to study international business.
  5. Most importantly I want to find purpose while I am gone. Whether it is representing the University of Alabama in my dedication to learning, myself in being an open-minded and respectful tourist, or my country in symbolizing our hope for peace and cooperation— I am grateful and optimistic about all that Cuba will teach me.
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