Program Highlight: Study Abroad in La Habana, Cuba

Spend your summer in a legendary city on the largest island of the Caribbean.  The sunny days are perfect for meeting locals at the beach, exploring the city’s history on foot, and experiencing the vibrant and lively Cuban culture at art festivals, including Arte en la Rambla, Noche de los Libros, and La Habana Carnival. Discover the friendly, expressive and multicultural Cuban society; feel the full richness of culture and arts; and enjoy the island’s natural beauty. Cuba’s rich history, intriguing modern events and society, and deep-rooted culture makes it a fascinating place to live and study. 

Academic focus:

Cuban History, Society, Politics, and Culture

Host University:

Instituto de Filosofia, Cuban Academy of Sciences

Interesting fact about the city:

The Island of Cuba is shaped like a crocodile and is often referred to as ‘El Cocodrilo’ by the locals

Best weekend travel destinations:

Cuba proudly boasts nine UNESCO World Heritage sites around the main island. This island has so much to offer with over 200 bays and beaches, surrounded by 400 smaller islands and cays. There are a variety of options to fill your weekend travel itineraries and buses across the island will help you explore and find the best hidden gems. The historic city of Trinidad is less than five hours away with iconic colorful houses and narrow cobbled streets or visit Cienfuegos (less than 3 hours away) where the historic French influence has created a unique culture and architecture. You can spend your weekends and free time exploring and trying new things, but keep in mind USAC also offers trips and tours to help you fully immerse yourself in the Cuban culture.

Field trips (vary by term):

Viñales Valley
The day trip to Viñales UNESCO World Heritage Site included visits to a tobacco plantation, a burgeoning activity center, and site of the earliest surviving coffee plantations in Cuba. The trip will help you experience the full range of Cuba’s agricultural history, present tourism economies, and natural beauty. 

Playas del Este
Playas del Este is the home of La Habana beaches. Just 18 kilometers east of La Habana, beautiful beaches stretch up the north coast for more than 20 kilometers. These beaches are favorites of the local habaneros and the perfect location to spend a day with locals just 20 minutes away from USAC student houses.

Terrazas Eco Community:
UNESCO declared the Sierra delRosario Biosphere Reserve a reserve in 198. Centuries of timbering and harvesting for charcoal led to the deforestation, erosion, and infertility of this once lush area. Through Agrarian Reform laws, the local people were employed to replant the area’s forests. Today, the 61,775 acre reserve is one of the world’s greatest reclamation projects. 

Santa María del Mar
Santa María is the most famous beach in La Habana. It is characterized by its lack of residential areas unlike other beaches, with only some isolated houses. It is located along a coastal strip with abundant sand, vegetation that protects it, and of course the crystalline water.

Optional tour:

Southern Cuba
We will visit four different provinces in Cuba; Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara. The tour includes Playa Larga in the beautiful Cienage de Zapata (World Biosphere Reserve); Cueva de los Pees and the famous Museo de Playa Girón; the historical city of Cienfuegos; Trinidad, the best-preserved Spanish Colonial city in America; and the Che Guevera mausoleum and city tour in Santa Clara Province. 

What students have to say:

“I studied in Cuba about 3 years ago now and I still can’t stop telling everyone I meet about how amazing Cuba was and totally contrary to popular belief. The Cuban people were all very nice. Despite Havana being a city, the people acted as if they were from a small town. I felt completely safe mostly due to the severe laws in Cuba that protect tourists (30 years for stealing from a tourist). With that being said, I rarely ventured off on my own and I definitely was very cognizant of where I was and my surroundings. The accommodations were great. I ended up in an apartment with other students while some others ended up in home-stays. Luck of the draw really. Some had hot water all day. Some only had hot water in the morning. Overall, the accommodations were fine. Last advice is to bring hot sauce and a great attitude.” -Brianne Frank

“The USAC La Habana program was absolutely incredible. Even though this was my first time out of the US and I knew only rudimentary Spanish, I found the program to be very helpful at making me feel comfortable while in Cuba. The home-stay meets bed and breakfast style accommodations (Casa Particulares) a few blocks away from the school helped me immerse myself and made me feel like a resident, not a tourist. The course I took was very similar to one I might have taken back in the States but with less homework and lots of highly relevant field trips. Although I didn’t come back a fluent Spanish speaker, I made life-long friends and will forever cherish my time abroad.” -Schade

Additional articles about Cuba:

Studying Latin American Politics in Cuba as a Gilman Scholar

From Cuba to Brazil: Studying Abroad in Two Locations