2017 International Study Trip: Havana, Cuba
Perfect combination of art, history and color
As Cuba opens up, people from all over the world are likely to flood into Havana, hoping to understand more about its transformation. Our MBA International Study Trip class visited the capital of Cuba from March 26-31.
Before we arrived, we spent 10 weeks in class studying Cuba, devouring books and movies. We discussed the rise of communism, the U.S. embargo and Che Guevara. I found it all very amazing, from a cultural and historical perspective.
Havana: An Open-air Museum
Havana is the major port and the most well-known city on the island.
Walking along a beautiful three-mile, waterfront walkway at sunset, you will find it is a wonderful way to get a sense of this evocative city.
Rich in culture, history, color and art, Havana–especially Old Havana–expresses the most iconic and vivid parts of Cuba’s culture.
As we drove or walked the city streets, we noticed the vintage 1950s cars contributing to the city’s strong retro atmosphere.
Flavors of Havana: Cigar and Rum
As the birthplace of premium cigars, Havana has various cigar factories of different shapes and sizes and. Cuban cigars are widely considered the finest in the world and few things about Cuba are as famous. We visited one of the cigar factory to see the process of hand-rolled Cuban cigars.
For Cubans, rum is personal and spiritual—and a kind of national identity. Along with cigars, Cuban rum fueled the country’s economy for decades. However, since the 1960s, America has imposed an embargo against Cuba. Cuban-made cigars and rum became contraband, which only stimulated more enthusiasm and interest in American’s heart. Havana Club, a famous brand established in 1934 in Cuba, is the authentic Cuban rum perfect for Mojito and Daiquiri cocktails. Lucky us, we had the opportunity to talk with the marketing director of Havana Club, visit the rum museum and learn how to cook with rum.
Communist Cuba: Professionals are Quitting Government Jobs
I went to Havana two days before the rest of the class and stayed in an Airbnb. My host is a Frenchman who can speak three languages: French, Spanish and English. He left his position since he began to rent his house on Airbnb. Now he is running Airbnb and everyday he goes to a Wi-Fi spot to check the information and take care of his “business” on Airbnb.
Our tour guide was a professor of chemistry. We benefitted from her knowledge and her understanding and insights about Cuba. In Havana, we may find that the taxi driver was a dentist and the owner of a bakery was an engineer.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, the average Cuban salary is $27 a month. Highly-skilled professionals like professors and doctors can earn $30 – $80 monthly. When Cuban elites figure out better ways to earn more money to support their families, they left their government careers.
For these professionals, they can easily earn more than $30 one day, equal what they earned in government departments. As the country begins its economic reform and opens doors to the world, its people are pushing for faster change.
Traveling with 30 classmates: One of the Most Unique Trips of my Life
Traveling with so many classmates was a unique experience for me, and definitely a fun one. During this trip, we shared many experiences and friendships strengthened. I would like to share some precious moments we had in Cuba.