New Study Abroad Programs Include Cuba

Photo courtesy of Peter SanchezLoyola professor Peter Sanchez led a group of students on a study abroad trip to Cuba in 2004.

Loyola will offer study abroad opportunities in three new locations in 2017, including Cuba, which is beginning to strengthen its relations with the United States.

The Office of International Programs offers 19 faculty-led programs that take students to 12 different countries during spring break, summer and J-term semesters. In 2017, Loyola will offer classes in Panama and Iceland for the first time ever, and it will offer a class in Cuba for the first time since 2004.

Students will have the option to take a course called “Cuba Today: Politics and Society” this summer in Havana. The course overlaps in political science, international studies and Latin American studies.

These faculty-led programs grant students the opportunity to learn from different perspectives that they could not get in the traditional classroom, according to Peter Sanchez, the professor for “Cuba Today: Politics and Society.”

The program will allow 20 Loyola students to travel to Cuba with Sanchez for 16 days to study the history, culture and politics of the country.

“It’s not so much a classroom environment, but going and visiting places, meeting with people from Cuba and with various organizations is what this class is all about,” said Sanchez. “By going to Cuba for 16 days and actually seeing how people live, … they’ll get a first-hand look of what’s been going on in the island and perhaps what changes may [come] to Cuba in the near future.”

Sanchez, who was born in Cuba and moved to the United States when he was 8 years old, led the previous group of Loyola students to Cuba in 2004. For their educational trip, Sanchez and his students specifically took a charter flight from the United States to Cuba. In March 2016, President Barack Obama lifted travel restrictions, which made it easier for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. Since U.S. relations with Cuba have started to strengthen, Sanchez said he thought it was time to hold another program in Cuba. His previous trip to the country and his research on Latin American politics helped him set up the upcoming trip.

Educational trips like study abroad programs that create contact with people from other cultures are important for renewing diplomatic relations with Cuba, according to Sanchez.

Loyola constantly works to provide new opportunities for students to study abroad, according to Kelly Heath, associate director of study abroad.

“We’re always trying to diversify our portfolio of programs and provide locations where we don’t already have a current offering available,” Heath said. “We actually work closely with faculty to have them drive the process, in terms of the types of courses they’re interested in offering and the locations that appeal to them and mesh well with the subject matter that they’re going to be focusing on.”

Students enrolled in a specific section of “TLCS 231: Teaching Writing and Science in Elementary Schools” will travel to Panama City for nine days during spring break for a field-based course. This summer, both “ENVS 224: Climate Change” and “ENVS 398: Sustainability Management in the Global Context” will be taught in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The Office of International Programs understands the impact these courses have on students and plans on updating their locations and subject material as needed, according to Heath.

“Getting to go on programs like these and really see the subject matter first-hand and see it from that global perspective, it can be really eye-opening,” said Heath. “The neat things about these courses is they are very experiential, just in the sense that students aren’t in a classroom all day … They are really using the location as their classroom.”

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