Though traveling to Cuba is impossible for many American citizens, Tisch students have the opportunity to spend a semester in Havana studying photography, dance and video production, while also experiencing daily life in the U.S. embargoed country.
“[Studying in Havana offers] a great opportunity of meeting a place that has been isolated for a great deal of time,” Adrian Fernández, onsite faculty member in Havana, said.
Technically, some U.S. citizens are allowed to travel to Cuba, but government regulations limit where money can be spent in the country, which prevents travel for tourism’s sake. Students are allowed to study abroad in Cuba via a special visa for educational purposeshowever.
In the spring of 2013, Steinhardt students participating in the Dean’s Global Honors Seminar, including Steinhardt junior Charlie Wright, had the opportunity to travel to Havana over spring break.
“We were only able to go over because we were under an educational visa,” Wright said.
As the capital city and the largest port in Cuba, Havana is a city with a variety of cultural influences.
“It is an island that has grown out of the exchange of other cultures,” Fernández said. “Culturally, it is a harbor.”
The architectural diversity also makes the city well-suited for photography and film projects.
“Havana has a mixture of architectural styles … [and] it is all expressed in the buildings and in the neighborhoods,” Fernández said. “It is very appealing and photographically very attractive.”
The students who study abroad in Havana work with the local people on photo projects. The photography program is for students of varying skill levels.
“The students that apply to the Havana program can come from different backgrounds, some have more advanced knowledge, and others are learning it for the first time,” Fernández said.
There are four different exercises that the students are asked to complete during their semester. They are titled place, event, portrait and individual project.
The portrait is designed to help students focus their approach. It is not simply a basic headshot, but instead an assignment designed to portray someone’s life. Fernández said students often find this task easier than expected because of the friendliness of the local people.
“The people in the streets are open for photographing,” Fernández said. “They are very extroverted. They don’t have issues being photographed, they might even welcome it.”
In addition to photography, students also experience the culture as they spend time with locals and live in the heart of the country.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Oct. 2 print edition. Email Meranda Yslas at [email protected]