Traveling or studying abroad in Cuba used to be nearly impossible for American citizens, but now, thanks to President Obama, everything is changing.
Starting in 2011, Obama removed several regulations, which allowed US students to more easily travel to Cuba for study abroad purposes.
These efforts were furthered in January 2015 when the president made the announcement that he intended to reopen communication with Cuba, ease travel restrictions even further and ultimately normalize relations. After decades of isolation, the future of US-Cuban relations is brighter than ever and more and more students are now able to take advantage of an increasing number of study abroad programs.
Are you interested in studying Spanish in Cuba, or learning about the country’s history while exploring the streets of Havana? Although the newly relaxed regulations have opened up Cuba’s doors to American college students, if you’re hoping to study in Cuba, you will still need to follow certain steps.
Find an academic program.
If you want to spend a couple weeks, a semester or an entire academic year in Cuba, the first thing you’ll need to do is find an accredited academic program sponsored by a college or university.
The Obama administration’s efforts to expand academic travel to Cuba permits students to take part in study abroad programs through colleges and universities other than their own, so if your own school doesn’t offer a Cuba study abroad option, don’t despair!
Make sure you get academic credit.
Whether you go abroad through your home campus or through another school, it’s important to make sure that you get credit for your semester abroad in Cuba. The new guidelines specify that schools should offer study abroad programs for credit.
If you go through a program offered by a school other than your own, you will have to verify that your home institution will accept credits for the program and, most likely, will have to provide a letter from your school attesting to this fact.
Apply for necessary travel documents.
Once you’ve found a study abroad program to take you to Cuba, you’ll want to get your travel documents in order. Start early because processing times can be lengthy!
First, make sure you have a valid passport. If you don’t yet have a passport, or you passport has expired, immediately begin the process of obtaining or renewing one as it can take several months to complete.
The second important travel document you’ll need is your student visa. The institution running your study abroad program must have a specific license authorizing Cuban travel for its students/employees, and can therefore probably take care of the visa for you. Check with the program to be sure and find out what paperwork it needs from you to complete the visa process, including any translations of your personal documents.
Take care of medical requirements.
Make sure that you have an adequate supply of any prescription medications you need for your trip, and that you have all your necessary shots and vaccinations.
You may also have to purchase international student medical insurance; Cuba does not accept US-issued insurance cards. To stay safe while you’re there, follow general safety tips for study abroad students, and always consult your program directors if you have questions.
Last but not least…
Check with your study abroad program regarding additional pre-trip requirements. Many programs require you to complete basic Spanish courses and attend orientation sessions prior to departure. Finally, once all the prep work and paperwork is done, you can start packing.
Don’t forget your camera! Cuba is still largely unexplored by US citizens, and you’ll definitely want to share your fantastic experiences with friends and family back home. Have fun studying abroad in Cuba!