Troy students make historic first trip to Cuba

Posted: Thursday, 11 July 2013

Four Troy University students will become the first to plant the Trojan Flag on Cuban soil in late July when they participate in a study abroad trip to the island nation.

Just 90 miles off the tip of Florida, Cuba has long been off-limits to Americans, but recent changes by the federal government have opened the way for students to travel there for organized learning experiences.

“We will expose our students to the culture, geography and history of a land that has been largely off-limits to the average American since 1960," said David “Doc" Kirby, a journalism lecturer who has made five trips to the country as a musician. “The musical heritage of Cuba has been an enormous influence on American music of the last 70 years, for example."

The students will also attend lectures at Cuban universities and participate in cultural immersion opportunities.

“For our foreign-language students, they'll get to experience first-hand a very diverse Latin American culture that has been somewhat insular. This means the language has developed in different ways than in other Central and South American nations," he said.

The 12-day trip – 10 of which are in Cuba – actually begins with students visiting the Cuban-American Ybor City community in Tampa, Fla. to familiarize themselves with Cuba's culture. The study-abroad tour will land the group, also guided by Dr. Johanna Alberich, an assistant professor of Spanish, in Havana, Holguin and Santiago.

In Havana, the students will visit historical sites, observe rehearsals of the National Concert Band and the National Symphony Orchestra and pay a call to the Plaza de la Revolucion before heading to Holguin. There, the group will see historical sculptures on city squares and visit radio stations. Not to escape attending classes, faculty will conduct classes on Playa Guardalavaca, the beach where Christopher Columbus landed.

They will observe the rehearsals of the Province Band and the Holguin Symphony Orchestra, and have lunch with music directors of both. The group will also observe classes at the University of Holguin. Heading to Santiago, the Trojans will take San Juan Hill and have class on the War for Cuban Independence from Spain. Observation of classes at the University of Santiago de Cuba and visit to cultural and historical sites are also planned.

Joining Kirby and Alberich as chaperones are Dr. Shari Hoppin, an associate professor in the Hall School of Journalism and Communication, and Lisa Vardaman, an education subject specialist in the Wallace Library.

Making the trip are students:

  • Rachel Wallace, a junior broadcast journalism major from Helena
  • Phillip James, a junior Spanish major from Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
  • Haley Rae Davies, a senior Spanish and anthropology major from Fort Collins, Colo.
  • Joseph Mitchell Markett, a student from Opelika

Kirby also said the team will be establishing connections in governmental and education venues so that future trips could be offered with expanded areas of study.

The team leaves on July 29 and returns to Alabama on Aug. 9.