Champlain College Students Explore Cuba During Spring Break

By Olivia Werenski ‘17/ Champlain College News

While you were away at spring break either back at your hometown or at a stereotypical college destination like Cabo or Cancun, Miriam Horne’s CORE-320 Human Rights class took a week-long trip to Havana, Cuba to learn more about the country and its rich culture, as well as apply their knowledge of human rights matters, and learn more about themselves in the process.

Champlain offers various courses with travel components. They are a great opportunity for students to gain a global perspective, even if they aren’t able to spend an entire semester studying abroad. The classes, usually third-year Core courses, are open to juniors to complete their global perspectives requirement, or to any upperclassmen as an elective.

The students in Horne’s course included sophomore business administration student Meredith Hansen, juniors Tara McCarthy, Psychology; Ellen Voorheis, Graphic Design and Digital Media; Ben Wan, Computer Information Technology; Lucas Bienvenue, Computer and Digital Forensics; Neal Pavlak, Business Administration; and communications majors Erin Laffin and Marissa Conte. Seniors choosing to take the course as an elective included accounting majors Fletcher Ramsey and Linda Mallo, as well as business major Nick Wahlers.

This is the first time a course brought students to Cuba, as American citizens can travel to Cuba strictly for educational purposes.

“It really appealed to me because the history behind the relationship between Cuba and America has kept American’s from visiting their country,” said junior Erin Laffin. “It was amazing to observe such a unique culture”.

During their time in Havana, students visited a biosphere, the homes and studios of local artisans, ate at many traditional Cuban and atypical local eateries, and even took dance lessons. The students got a feel for life without the accommodations of home, such as oversized sport utility vehicles, billboards, and fast food restaurants.

“It is almost as if time stopped in 1960,” said Laffin. “The cars are vintage, the architecture remains in its original form or is being restored to its original form, and no one walks around texting.”
When asked what her favorite moment was from the trip, Laffin explained, “One of my favorite moments was visiting Ernest Hemingway’s beautiful house in a hilltop villa called ‘Finca Vigia,’ which is where he wrote The Old Man and The Sea, and had a library with over 9,000 books.”

 The students would recommend this trip to their peers, saying their experience was “positive and interesting to anyone who wants to learn about Cuba’s complex history.”