Berkeley Study Abroad offers summer program in Havana, Cuba

“Berkeley Study Abroad offers summer program in Havana, Cuba”

by Ishaan Srivastava via “The Daily Californian


After a historic resumption of U.S.–Cuba diplomatic relations and a relaxation of bilateral tensions, Berkeley Study Abroad is now offering a summer study abroad program in Havana, Cuba.

The course provides students with the opportunity to spend one month exploring the geographical and historical transformation of Cuba from colonial times to the present, all while living and studying in “the spirited capital of Cuba.”

“Cuba is — and has always been — a marvelous and fascinating country,” said program director Elizabeth Vasile. “It is a great place to see rapid transformation taking place.”

Vasile, who received her doctorate in geography from UC Berkeley and now conducts research in Latin America, has been leading tours of Cuba for about five years on behalf of organizations such as National Geographic. She approached the geography department chair and study abroad office last year with plans for the program, and received swift approval.

“Unlike a traditional classroom, we’re going to be going out in the field and observing the landscape for ourselves,” Vasile said, adding that her two primary objectives for the program are to instill in students a nuanced understanding of the complexity of Cuban history and the ability to critically observe the world around them.

Peer institutions such as Harvard College and Princeton University have offered similar programs even before President Barack Obama announced his intention to renew diplomatic ties with Cuba. The campus had previously offered a similar program that lasted from 1999 to 2003.

Other organizations such as the travel agency Marazul — which will be providing logistical assistance for UC Berkeley’s program this summer — have been organizing visits to Cuba since 1979.

Members of UC Berkeley’s faculty have maintained professional ties to Cuba despite longstanding diplomatic tensions. Anthropology professor Nancy Scheper-Hughes fondly remembers having invited Cuban medical professionals for a seminar in the early ‘90s, noting that then-Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien was happy to write a letter officially inviting her guests onto campus.

“He even asked whether we could invite Fidel Castro,” Scheper-Hughes said. “That would probably have been a step too far.”

According to Scheper-Hughes, such programs provide students with an opportunity to experience Cuba “before it becomes totally neoliberalized.”

Despite a history of bilateral political animosity, both Scheper-Hughes and Vasile said student safety would not be of exceptional concern in Cuba. Kaylee Yoshii, a campus senior who has visited Cuba multiple times on research trips,noted that the attitude toward Americans in Cuba is welcoming despite the decades of diplomatic hostility.


Abroad101 releases student review rankings

“Abroad101 releases student review rankings”

by Sara Custer via “The Pie News

Students from the US have ranked courses in Costa Rica, Australia and Ireland as the best study abroad programmes in the Abroad101 2014 Study Abroad Rankings. The review website also announced listings of students’ top choices for summer programmes, foodie cities and budget destinations.

Now in their 4th year, the Abroad101 Study Abroad Rankings looked at thousands of reviews for 1,400 programmes.

The rankings are based on thousands of online evaluations of 1,472 programmes made by students under the direction of their academic advisors and hosted by Abroad101.

This year, Sol Education Abroad’s Study Abroad & Spanish Immersion in Heredia Costa Rica received the largest number of top reviews from students followed by The Education Abroad Network’s Gold Coast-Bond University scheme in Australia and a direct enrolment programme at the American College Dublin.

“The rankings give some insight into who’s got nice programmes and maybe gets students thinking a little bit differently rather than just the traditional top destinations or top providers”

Also in the top 10 are three smaller independent programmes in Italy and a semester programme in Romania.

Mark Shay, CEO of Abroad101 said it is encouraging to see students appreciate non-traditional destinations and programmes. “There’s this unique little programme that goes into non-urban Romania and students get very immersed in the local community and seem to have a very powerful experience,” he told The PIE News.

“It’s nice to see some unique programmes like that really give students a memorable experience.”

The top-ranked summer programmes also showed that students value programmes outside of Western Europe where traditionally the most popular programmes have been based.

Traveling Study in Ghana through provider ThisWorldMusic got top marks from students while Sustainability and Renewable Energy Abroad with the Green Program in Iceland was ranked second. Hanyang University’s Seoul International Summer School is also in the top five.

“The rankings give some insight into who’s got nice programmes and maybe gets students thinking a little bit differently rather than just the traditional top destinations or top providers,” commented Shay.

“Our list has a nice range of small independent schools, small providers, big providers and for-profit and non-for profit players.”

Iceland was ranked the Top Non-Traditional Country while students considered the Gold Coast in Australia the Most Liveble City. Thailand won the accolades for Top Food and Budget-Friendly Country.