Cuba PackingAs my day of departure draws nearer, I can’t get my mind off of the Caribbean. I have been looking forward to this trip ever since I heard about the UA in Cuba program a few years ago. It’s surreal that a trip I’ve been planning for so long is about to become a reality. I decided to go to Cuba soon after I decided to study Spanish as a major. Perhaps my primary motivation was that this would be my last real opportunity to immerse myself in the language as well as the culture of a Hispanic country. Having already travelled to Spain, I know the value of learning in a foreign country.

The semester in Cuba starts a few weeks later than classes in Tuscaloosa, so I’ve had a little extra vacation time to relax and prepare to go abroad. Along with some travelling and reading, I’ve spent as much time as possible with family and friends. Even though I’ll be having lots of fun in Cuba, I also know that I’ll get homesick while I’m gone. I’ve also been reading as much as possible about the history of the island. Cuba is a very unique country with a lot of history, much of it intertwined with that of the U.S. Though I’m sure I have a lot to learn when I get there, I’ve tried to get a good head start. This week is my last here in the states, so I’ve also started to collect the items I’ll need and pack my suitcase. Packing for Cuba is probably not much different than packing for any other tropical country except for one aspect: the U.S. embargo. Many of the personal items you would expect to be able to buy in a supermarket will be difficult if not impossible to find, especially if made by a U.S. company. As a result, I’ve had to get creative with my packing, ensuring a 3-month supply of everything I need, while keeping my suitcase under the weight limit of 44 lbs.

While I’m in Cuba, I have several goals that I’d like to strive toward. I’m planning on speaking Spanish exclusively. I would like to become more fluent and learn at least 1,000 new words while I’m abroad. I also want to meet and befriend as many locals as possible. I did the same in Spain and wound up learning a lot more, just from getting to know the local people. This will also help me see what the communist system looks like in everyday life in Cuba. I want to learn about Cuban culture and contrast it with the way we live here in the states.

I’ve been looking forward to studying in Cuba for a long time now. This is shaping up to be an exciting and unforgettable trip. In less than a week, I’ll be landing in Havana.