With relations thawing between the United States and Cuba, Johns Hopkins University wants to send more students to study on the island nation.
Hopkins is one of several schools participating in the Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad, or CASA, which launched a study-abroad program with the University of Havana this spring.
Students will take courses from that university as well as special, CASA-led classes in Cuban culture and issues facing the country, said Lori Citti, director of the Office of Study Abroad at Hopkins.
“It’s intriguing for students to go to places where there is significant change,” Citti said, noting Cuba is on the cusp of a major transition that will be an unavoidable part of the students’ daily lives.
The program also will offer a chance for comparative research in fields such as public health, she said.
The CASA program is being led by Brown University, which has had a presence in Cuba since 2008 and has been developing the consortium for four years, said Kendall Brostuen, director of Brown’s Office of International Programs.
The eventual goal is to establish CASA centers all over the world, with Spain the likely next location, he said.
Prior to the establishment of CASA, options for Hopkins students to visit Cuba were fewer and more restrictive, Citti said. They could travel independently for university-sanctioned research and language-learning purposes, and since 2012 have been able to participate in a two-week course taught in Cuba by a professor of Spanish from Hopkins. But there hasn’t been a semester-long, university-organized program until now.
In the past, the U.S. embargo has limited students to spending money on items such as course materials and travel expenses; while many of those restrictions remain in place, there are now more resources catering to travelers and more support available to Americans from the reopened embassy, Citti said.
Advanced-level Spanish skills are still required.
Hopkins students interested in a semester in Cuba can expect to pay about $24,000, which includes travel and housing. The university is hoping to send its first cohort of students to the CASA program in the spring 2016 semester and is currently accepting applications, Citti said.
The consortium sent 12 students to Cuba this spring and expects to send another 29 students this fall, Brostuen said.
Those who apply need to be open-minded and flexible, said Brostuen.
“You need a student who is not looking for creature comforts,” he said, adding that those expecting consistent Wi-Fi access will be disappointed.
But life in Cuba will offer other pleasures.
“They’re going to be witnesses to history,” Brostuen said.