Study Abroad in Cuba

Providing unique learning experiences for North American university students since 1969

Cuba Study Abroad: Overview

Havana, a beautiful city with historic neighborhoods, a captivating waterfront and a diverse cultural heritage, is the perfect setting for a meaningful cross-cultural learning experience. Founded in 1514, this Caribbean gem was a key to the Indies and one of the most prosperous ports in the Americas. As you explore the streets of Havana, the rhythms of rumba surround you, along with the sights and smells of Cuban culture. 

The Cuban people are outgoing, friendly and interested in meeting Americans. Cubans, including fellow students at Universidad de La Habana, take pride in their country and in their diverse cultural and political heritage. Recent changes to US government regulations allow students enrolled in a college or university to travel to Cuba. Spanish Studies Abroad offers students the rare opportunity to immerse themselves in Cuba’s rich blend of African, European and American cultures, and to experience it from within.

Cuba Study Abroad: Cultural Information

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Choteo: A distinctly Cuban attitude

This attitude of Cubans is one of the most remarkable features that distinguishes them most markedly from Americans. It is a positive attitude, a defiant resistance to the despair and adversity that permeate their lives.

How do Cubans express their ‚Äúchoteo?‚ÄĚ By sharing stories (often very humorous!), telling jokes, or playing music. A Cuban writer said it best when he wrote, ‚ÄúEn esas levedades, a veces sanas, otras premeditadas, el cubano desarrolla una resistencia que le permite encontrar luz donde todo parece apagado.‚ÄĚ

This best captures the Cuban choteo: to find light where there is total darkness. Perhaps the biggest lesson that American students can learn when they go to Cuba is one regarding perspective of life.

Traditional Cuban Dishes

Breakfast (Desayuno):Breakfast is typically a small amount of strong coffee with hot milk, bread, fresh fruit, and eggs.

Lunch (Almuerzo): Your class schedule will determine your lunch schedule. Depending on your schedule you may wish to buy your lunch in one of the modestly priced cafetería snack stands near the university or to eat at a paladar or other restaurant.

Dinner (Cena or Comida):Dinner is served at 6:30 pm and typically consists of a soup or small salad, followed by rice and beef, chicken, pork or fish in a salsa criolla, that is, a typical Cuban sauce, and is accompanied by a beverage of your choice. Dessert and coffee are also offered. Cuban food is not spicy, but mildly flavored.

Note to Vegetarians and Vegans Meals in Cuba can be repetitive with lots of pork and rice, and very few vegetables. We recommend that all our students be careful about their health, but vegetarians and vegans especially should make sure they are getting enough food and protein. We suggest bringing multi-vitamins with you, as well as granola or power bars, peanut butter or other supplementary snacks.

Some vegetarian restaurants in Havana are:

Biki Vegetarian Restaurant (corner of Infanta and San Larazo) Restaurant Vegetariano Carmelo (Calzada between Calles C and D) Restaurante El Bambu (Jardin Botanico)

The Weather and How to Dress in Cuba

Comfortable is the word that best describes the climate and dress in Cuba. June will be very hot (upper 80s and 90s) with high levels of humidity. Breezes blow in Havana throughout the year, especially along the waterfront Malec√≥n, and the rainy season (May ‚Äď October) tapers off as winter approaches. Always remember that the sun can be quite intense and come prepared for that probability. Clothing is casual for going to classes at the university. Lightweight semi-dressy or dressy clothes are appropriate for an evening out at a special restaurant or a nightclub. Rain gear should be lightweight and comfortable to use in the hot weather.

Cuban Social Life

Aside from the considerable entertainment of just walking around and watching people in this safe city, there is much popular music. The cafes and restaurants in areas popular with visitors all seem to have groups of guitar, bongo and flute players drifting in and out.

Many young people get together at neighborhood meeting places to play dominoes in the daytime and to dance salsa and rumbas in the evening. In addition, there are several popular salsa dance halls and discos in Havana, with entrance prices from 5-20 CUC. Dancing is something that moves all Cubans and they love to have you join in!

Cuba Study Abroad Programs

Liberal Arts in Spanish

Take courses in Spanish specifically designed for study abroad students. Attend classes with other international students studying Spanish language, culture, history, business, education, social sciences, and more. Spanish Studies Abroad on-site resident directors and local professors teach a cultural reflection course to help you understand and integrate with the culture.

Liberal Arts in Advanced Spanish

Advanced students enroll in one or more regular courses in Spanish at the host university to complement the Spanish Studies Program curriculum. Sit side-byside with local students. We provide you with all the benefits of direct enrollment, including access to campus resources and integration into the university community. On-site resident directors assist each student individually with course selection and registration, and select a tutor for academic support.

Short Term Programs

If you can’t get away for a full semester, short-term programs are the best option. Intensive language and culture content courses are offered during our January and Summer Term programs.

Start Studying Abroad in Cuba

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Excursions in Cuba

To enhance your cultural experience in Havana, Spanish Studies Abroad organizes various excursions, study visits and other activities throughout your semester. These activities are coordinated to enhance your class studies. Some sample cultural excursions may include:

Afro-Cuban rumba
  • Old Havana
  • Museum of the Revolution
  • Afro-Cuban rumba performances
  • Salsa concerts
  • Cienfuegos Province
  • Vi√Īales in Pinar del Rio Province
  • Matanzas Province
Cienfuegos, Cuba

Visit our local Facebook page for Havana, Cuba

Get an idea of typical activities that students are getting up to!

Housing in Cuba

Homestays in Cuba

You will live with a host family in a casa particular. They will provide you with daily breakfast and dinner. For lunches, you can explore Havana on your own!

Your homestay¬†will be¬†located about a 25-minute walk from the Universidad de La Habana, where your classes will take place. Lodging is composed of double rooms with private bath, air conditioning, refrigerator. It is important, however, to understand that the living conditions in a developing country are neither luxurious nor fully functioning. Therefore be prepared for minor inconveniences such as occasional cold showers or low water pressure, a noisy air-conditioning unit or a malfunctioning television. It is important to remember that these minor inconveniences are an integral part of ‚Äúthe Cuban experience‚ÄĚ and can be rich in their educational value.

For legal and safety reasons, students are required to live in Spanish Studies Abroad housing for the duration of the program. Contracting private housing is not permitted of students enrolled in programs taking place under the auspices of the University of Havana and may be illegal as well. Students entering into a housing agreement are therefore committed to living in the casa particular for the duration of their Spanish Studies Abroad program.

You will find that your Cuban family will become like another family for you. They not only welcome you into their homes, they are there to support you in your Havana living experience; tell them if you need something.

Don’t forget to consider a homestay gift for your host family!

homestay cuba
Local family

University in Cuba

Cuba’s principal and oldest institution of higher education, Universidad de La Habana (UH), is your the best opportunity to interact with Cuban peers and faculty. In the relatively small UH, virtually all students and professors know each other and enjoy a relaxed and comfortable learning atmosphere. This maximizes the opportunity for contact between Cuban and Spanish Studies Abroad students.

Spanish Studies Abroad has designed a selection of courses in Spanish language and Cuban studies, including Cuban literature, Afro-Cuban history, Cuban socialism, and Cuban cultural studies.


Meet your Resident Director

The best way to discover a culture is to live it in first person. When you come to Cuba you will not only have a unique experience, you will have known one of the most extraordinary places in the world. 

The idea of learning while traveling, fascinates me, that’s why I enjoy my work so much. I was born in Seville (Spain) and have had the opportunity to know many places in the world, but without a doubt, I will keep the magic of Cuba. A place where you can expect the unexpected.

Rocío Haro

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