Ponnada: Cuban program promotes understanding

 Overseas Writing Workshop in Cuba

By Sri Ponnada, The Daily Iowan

It has been almost two years since President Obama lessened restrictions on travel to Cuba. This move made by our president provides academic, religious, and cultural groups with unparalleled opportunities to travel to this previously forbidden land.

The University of Iowa took advantage of the situation and started the Overseas Writing Workshop in Cuba in January, immediately after President Obama’s lessening of travel restrictions, as reported by The Daily Iowan.

This program is not only a unique chance for students to visit Cuba and experience its wonderful culture, it is also a step toward progress beyond the embargo and ultimately solving the long-lasting Cuban conflict.

Whereas 13 students participated in the study-abroad program last winter, students have yet to top last year’s enrollment — and the deadline is only a few days away.

Robin Hemley, the director of the Nonfiction Writing Program, said he is not terribly concerned about the lack of enrollment at the moment, since the information session won’t be held until Thursday. Hemley noted that these programs tend to fill up at the last minute.

The two-week program in the winter of 2013 will cost UI students $4,025 and non-UI participants $4,225.

“I understand and appreciate that the program is expensive, but it’s also unique among study-abroad programs,” Hemley said. “Cuba is a country that’s somewhat shrouded in mystery for most Americans, a country that’s off-limits and that one can only reach legally by participating in just such a program.”

For those students concerned with the costs of the program, there are numerous scholarship opportunities to help students who wish to study abroad — both merit- and need-based. As stated on the International Program’s website, the program expects to disburse more than $600,000 in scholarships this year.

If you’re looking for an eye-opening excursion that will enlarge your view of the world and teach you to be tolerant, there’s no better place to be than Cuba — a country that has been off-limits to most Americans since the 1960s.

Keywords: