AU Ambassadors

Student Life at American University

Spring Break in Cuba

April 5, 2016|Posted in: Abroad Adventures

Teddy Freudenberg is a freshman studying international studies originally from Oceanside, New York. He had the opportunity to travel to Cuba over spring break as a part of the University College Research Lab.

During my first semester of my freshman year, I had the opportunity to be a part of the University College here at American University. I chose to take the seminar titled Why Do They Love Us and Hate Us? with Professor Sally Shelton-Colby. The class studied how countries around the world view the United States and we learned about the United States’ friends and enemies around the world.

When I learned that University College offered another opportunity for the spring semester in the University College Research Lab, I immediately knew I wanted to still be a part of the program since I enjoyed it so much first semester. This time, I would be taking a class called How do Cubans View the U.S? also with Professor Shelton-Colby. This class would focus on Cubans’ perceptions of the U.S. government and culture. The class also consisted of a trip to Cuba over our spring break.

The research lab consisted of a week-long trip to Cuba over spring break.

The research lab consisted of a week-long trip to Cuba over spring break.

Relations between the two countries have been limited, and rather contentious, for the past fifty years, which added the uncertainty and mystery behind Cubans’ real perceptions of the United States. We gained insight on these perceptions by conducting interviews in Cuba, with individuals ranging from entrepreneurs to social activists, to normal, everyday Cubans.

The Cubans were very honest with us, offering us a wide range of opinions regarding the United States. We heard some positive views of the U.S., but we also heard some negative ones, which was to be expected. Cubans are some of the most well-educated, self-aware, and open-minded individuals you could ever meet.

The group met Cubans and learned more about the Cuban perception of the United States.

The group met Cubans and learned more about the Cuban perception of the United States.

Traveling had such a significant impact on my life; it made me realize that even if we don’t want to hear it, not everyone around the world likes the United States as much as we think they do. It also made me realize how lucky and privileged I am to be an American as well – they may not like our government and policies, but they do love our culture. They love our iPhones, our TV shows, our big cities, and our celebrities. They wish they could eat at a McDonalds or Starbucks and could surf the web as freely as they want.

I admit, being in Cuba for a week did get frustrating at times – cold water, no Wi-Fi for directions – but it definitely had its perks. Havana has such a rich culture and history and Cubans were extremely friendly and willing to talk to you. My one complaint, however, is the visa process; I hope it becomes easier in the future so more people can travel to Cuba and experience the country like I did.

Students had the unique chance to be exposed to the rich Cuban culture.

Students had the unique chance to be exposed to the rich Cuban culture.

Studying abroad for a short week in Havana changed my perspective on the world and made me realize how lucky I was to be a part of the University College. They offered me a once in a life time opportunity to learn more about Cuba – a country that has seemingly been our arch nemesis for the past fifty years, but in reality, is nothing more than a frenemy.

To learn more about Teddy and the rest of the Ambassadors, click here.

Posted by Amelia Crabtree

Cacti, cows, and science lover