UW-Cuba study abroad to begin Winter 2006

The University of Washington is offering an opportunity to spend 10 weeks immersed in Cuban culture in Cienfuegos, a maritime...

The University of Washington is offering an opportunity to spend 10 weeks immersed in Cuban culture in Cienfuegos, a maritime city on Cuba’s southern coast, starting in Winter Quarter 2006.

The governments of Cuba and the United States have formally approved the exchange program between UW Tacoma and the University of Cienfuegos. The program is open to students on any of the three UW campuses.

“This is really going to be an extraordinary opportunity for students,” said Bill Richardson, director of UWT’s Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences program. UWT is one of only three U.S. universities with exchange programs in Cuba.

In January, a group of faculty members from UW’s Seattle and Tacoma campuses traveled to Cuba for a joint conference with faculty members from the University of Cienfuegos. The group laid the groundwork for the exchange program and discussed what roles environmental education and cultural identities might play in the exchange curriculum and experience. They also worked on the nuts and bolts of academic enrollment for exchange students.

“In Cuba, we got a lot of good ideas about ways we can interact with students,” said IAS faculty member Cynthia Duncan, who has helped lead the effort to establish this program. “It’s amazing to see how much the faculty can do there with the little they have. They are really creative, and we can learn from that.”

In the past, Duncan has taken UWT students on one-week trips to Cienfuegos. New U.S. laws now prohibit student visits to Cuba lasting fewer than 10 weeks. The extended schedule required serious modifications to the old exchange program.

“Most students can do anything for a week, but 10 weeks is much more profound,” Duncan said. “They’ll be living in a developing country where they won’t always have hot water and electricity. I believe anyone who lives like this for a while will learn a lot about their own resilience, interactions, culture and values.”

Students in the program will study Spanish language, Cuban culture, history and society and the psychology of cultural transition. In addition, they will work with tutors on an individual research project. Participants will live with Cuban families and should expect to live as the Cubans live in order to have a full exchange experience.

Only full-time, degree-seeking UW students will be accepted into the program. Incoming freshmen or transfer students with fewer than 20 hours of UW credit may not participate. The U.S. government does not permit UW staff or alumni to attend, and participants are not allowed to bring family members or friends unless they are full-time, degree-seeking UW students.

The cost of this program is $4,500. Participants will earn 15 credits. For more information about this and other UWT international programs or to apply, please visit http://www.tacoma.washington.edu/travel or call 692-5880.

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