03/06/13 - Spartanburg Herald Journal - Spartanburg Day School students
return from Cuba
Twenty Upper School students and three faculty members spent last week in
Cuba as part of the school's Special Studies week - a time when students
are encouraged to pursue academic interests beyond the traditional
classroom. They arrived in Havana on Feb. 24 and returned home Friday.
The week was spent immersed in the Cuban culture - a travel experience off
limits to Americans until just a couple years ago. The group visited
schools, where they interacted with Cuban students. They soaked in the art
scene, listened to music and ate traditional Cuban food. The group also
distributed items, including children's books, T-shirts, soccer balls,
school and art supplies, and multivitamins.
"It was an eye-opener," said SDS government and economics and history
teacher Steve Jobe, who traveled to Cuba with the students. "The biggest
thing I think (students) experienced was just seeing that culture. Some of
the students were able to practice their Spanish, but just seeing the
people, being able to go out and bargain for goods, understanding that
whole process. Seeing the restraints the government has put on people
there, and seeing the ways to overcome that."
Jobe said the group was greeted by "very nice, friendly" locals. He said
that while poverty was unavoidable, the entrepreneurial spirit of the Cuban
people was admirable.
The trip was organized through a licensed company that provides
"people-to-people" educational travel to Cuba for Americans. The license is
issued by the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control and
is aimed at fostering meaningful interactions between visitors and the
"I wanted to experience a different culture," said SDS senior Abby Coté.
"I really didn't know much about (Cuba), and it was really interesting to
jump right in and be submerged in a new place."
Coté said that visiting schools in Cuba with open-air "hallways" and very
basic classrooms made her return to SDS on Monday a "weird" transition.
"It really makes you grateful for everything you have," Coté said. ". It
was a really big experience in my life, and I think it will really stick
Senior Ashley Oakes, 17, said the cultural experiences while in Cuba were
unforgettable. A highlight, she said, were the "community projects," where
students truly explored Cuba through traditional food, art, dance and song.
"Spanish is my favorite subject, so just being there to practice my Spanish
was a really neat experience," Oakes said. "Also, being here in America and
the freedom we have is something I appreciate more now."
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