Students study abroad in Cuba

Audrey Menninga

NMU is now offering a new study abroad program that will allow students to go to Cuba to take classes at a university.

The agreement was signed on Jan. 20 in Cuba and allows students to travel the University of Mantanzas to study. According to Miriam Moeller, International Programs specialist, U.S. citizens are not allowed into Cuba, and while 15 schools offer a study abroad in Cuba, NMU is the only school to offer a program outside of Havana.

“To visit and study in a totalitarian communist state will give students amazing insights into politics, history and culture that may be more intense than in any other country,” Moeller said.

Michael Wiese-Gomez and Natasha Gallagher started attending the University of Mantanzas on Feb. 15. NMU is the only school to offer a program outside of Havana. // Photo courtesy of the communications department

Moeller said that the program will be offered every semester and cost about as much as any other study abroad program, financial aid is accepted to help cover the cost. The program will last at least one semester.

In an article published in “CAMPUS,” a newsletter published by the communications and marketing department, President Les Wong spoke of the two students who will be participating in the study abroad program this semester, saying that they “are true pioneers. They are the first Americans that many of the Cuban students have ever met, and they are great ambassadors for our university and the nation.”

The students, Michael Wiese-Gomez, a senior Spanish major from Marquette, and Natasha Gallagher, a junior history major from Midland, have started the study abroad program, enrolling in classes that started Feb. 15.

Moeller explained that in order for the students to be accepted into the program, they had to go through a lengthy process. First they had to meet with Marcelo Siles, the director of International Programs, and Moeller. Then, they had to fill out the regular study abroad papers and attend a special Cuba study abroad orientation. Travel, visa and health insurance arrangements were made through the travel agency that focuses on Cuban travel.

Susan Koch, the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said that international opportunities were part of NMU’s roadmap to 2015.

“Only a very few U.S. universities have been able to secure licenses to travel to and work in Cuba,” Koch said. “With Cuba engaged in a historic social, political and economic transition, the opportunity for NMU faculty and students to be witnesses to and participants in this transition is an extraordinary international opportunity.”

Koch also said that NMU is looking at signing an agreement with the University of Havana. She anticipates agreement approval within the next six months.

“The signing of a cooperative agreement with the University of Mantanzas, the first ever such agreement outside of Havana, is the beginning of what we expect to be a mutually beneficial partnership that will be valuable for many NMU faculty and students,” Koch said.

If students aren’t proficient in Spanish, they can start their study abroad early in October, intensively studying Spanish, but they would be required to stay until summer.