“Home, warmth, love, fantastic,” these will be the words they will take back to the United States when they return. Feelings like these were expressed by Melody, Kathy, Kevin and Mogina after three intense days living in the Cuban reality. In three days, you can just start to think you understand things, but it is the first step to get close and understand the social and cultural phenomenon of a country.
During Bush administration, the policy in relation to the travels to Cuban hardened, so the Semesters at Sea stopped. But as soon as the organizers of the program knew that the government of Barack Obama reintroduced the policies of Clinton in the matter of bilateral relations, they did not hesitated and asked for license to travel to Cuba.
Les MacCabe, president and CEO from the Institute of Studies on Board in charged to organize the program, when he was asked why the interest on travelling to Cuba, he answered:
“This is an educative program for young people to help them achieve a real global perspective. For this purpose, we take them, with all intentions, to several countries with different economic development, political systems, culture, languages, so that during the 105 days of the voyage, they will have the opportunity to compare and contrast all they have seen.
“Despite how close we are geographically, for many of the Americans, Cuba is very far, a country we can read and listen a lot about it, but cannot be understood until we visit it. And the possibility to come to Cuba, to share with students and see all we have in common can help learn on the Cuban reality. It is the spirit of the new regulations and the spirit to establish contacts people to people and that is what has brought us to Cuba.”
“This is a fantastic return of the program if we follow the opinions of the American and Cuban students and professors who participated in the exchange. After they had visited 14 countries, which is to say to visit 14 different realities, the MV Explorer cruiser arrived in Cuba with 568 young people curious to know first hand this country which is too near and so far for the common American.
The visitors have been able to share with other university students for three days, walk the streets from Havana, attend to long and venerable conferences, participate in 14 class excursions including visits to historical and cultural places, and the most important activity, live in this country for at least a while.
MV Explorer cruiser will leave again, and as if it did not want to, it has said that like those beloved relatives, it will return next year to dock in the Cuban coasts, and by then, will stay for five days. Semester at Sea has demonstrated such mixed and essential realities like that of a Business student from Nebraska University and another from Communication from the University of Havana could be united for their passion to baseball and that, Cuban and American officials could approach and debate face to face without any diplomatic crisis. The travels of Semester at Sea to Cuba are one of the best bridges that can be built between the United States and Cuba. They are a step in the hope to reconnect the two countries who own each others too much as to live in parallel worlds.