Reflections of Ethnicity and Identity Abroad - African Heritage in Cuba

Nadia Doubiany is a senior majoring in international studies with an emphasis in human rights, as well as fundraising and philanthropy communications and Spanish at the University of Iowa. As a Diversity Ambassador for UI Study Abroad, she reflects upon her experiences as a mixed-race young woman in Cuba:

Dear Prospective Student,

My name is Nadia Doubiany, and I am a senior at the University of Iowa studying International Studies in Human Rights, Fundraising and Philanthropy Communications, and Spanish. If you are considering study abroad in Cuba, do it! In all of my travels abroad, my experience in Cuba has been by far the most life changing. 

Prior to my departure for Cuba, I really didn’t know what to expect. I had done my research into the history and cultures of Cuba, but nothing could completely prepare me for the exciting things, the beauty and the diversity I would experience.

As a mixed-race young woman, I never really know what people think when they look at me here in the U.S.  My racial identity has always been somewhat of a complicated matter, and I am often unsure of where I fit and how people perceive me.  It seems people are always trying to find a category for me, or a way to define my ethnicity that makes sense to them. So I was very curious about how people would see me and act towards me in Cuba.

During my time in Cuba, I discovered a place where the rich and complex history is reflected in the diversity of the Cuban people and cultures. Due to Cuba’s history of colonialism and slavery, and the still present influence of many foreign countries, Cuba is a very ethnically and culturally diverse country. From Spain to the African continent to China and beyond, the many influences that contribute to Cuban cultures have created a land of unique and endlessly diverse people. In many ways I felt less out of place in Cuba than I sometimes do in the U.S. No one ever asked, “What are you?” In fact, there seems to be an accepted level of racial ambiguity in Cuba so much so that I almost never felt that my race was an issue, and my African heritage was actually a basis for connecting with many people I met.

The people I met in Cuba were all extremely welcoming and accepting towards me, and others in my group. The entire experience of studying abroad, and being in Cuba filled my life with beauty, expanded my world, and taught me that life is filled with endless possibilities. If you are considering study abroad, go for it. You’ll be happy you did.

Sincerely,

Nadia Doubiany

​Learn more about the Diversity Ambassador Scholarship for study abroad, or read more reflections from our Diversity Ambassadors.

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