Close, yet Far: Cuba
Terrance Smith '13
Monday, April 8, 2013 - 4:00pm

Another semester, another Global Immersion Program trip!  Business school, particularly at Columbia, can be a truly global experience.  After having had such an amazing time learning about the Maghreb in Tunisia, I decided to indulge in the resources of the Chazen Institute once again by signing up for the course offered on Cuba this semester.  Given the limited access that I have to Cuba, as an American citizen, this truly offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about another part of the world where few have traveled.  Seemingly distant in terms of foreign relations and politics, Cuba was only a (somewhat complicated) hop, skip and a jump away from the United States.

Despite the tropical climate and friendly people, it was hard to ignore some of the stern messages of propaganda that seemed to be everywhere throughout Cuba.  “Country or death,” “We will be victorious,” “Defending Socialism,” and “Until the Victory Always” were just a few that we saw throughout our travels.  However, despite a very outward pronouncement of views, I always felt as though I was in any other part of the Caribbean: great music, wonderful surroundings, and smiling people.  Then again, I never really got to see what was going on behind closed doors.  While we were able to meet with several private business owners (e.g., spa and bed & breakfast owners), joint ventures (e.g., Havana Club rum factory), and government officials, the message of Socialism was ever present and felt “off the shelf.”  Rarely did I feel as though anyone divulged their own personal views.

This trip in particular left me with more questions than answers, but I think that’s the truly amazing part about the Global Immersion Program.  It gives you a chance to experience things that you’ve never been exposed to and provides unparalleled access to businesses and thought leaders.  Again, I encourage applicants to check out the program’s Travel Blog to see what other Columbia Business School students have done during their adventures abroad.  Maybe you will be posting your own travel stories soon!

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