Bethany Blamphin, Spanish major, will present her project “Intercultural Competence in the Language Classroom: Practices and Beliefs of Foreign Language Teachers in the US” at the annual Colonial Academic Alliance Undergraduate Research Conference at Elon University on March 31 – April 1, 2017.
When the College of Charleston launched its study abroad program in Havana, Cuba in summer 2000, travel and relations between the U.S. and Cuba were already difficult. Maintaining the program, which sends about 12 students to Havana each spring, has been challenging and often unpredictable, but it has always been rewarding.
Students studying abroad in Havana. Photo by Britton Holmes.
“My time in Cuba impacted me in more ways than I can count,” said Britton Holmes, a junior international studies and political science double major who studied abroad in Havana during the spring 2014 semester. “The culture is so rich, whether it’s the music, the art, the dance, etc. The people love being Cuban. They’re proud of their culture and they want to share it with everyone.”
The program that Holmes speaks of, though, is vastly different than the program the first 100 students to study in Havana experienced. In 2000, when International Studies Department Chair Douglas Friedman and Professor Emeritus of Hispanic Studies Jose Escobar launched the program with 20 students, participants spent four weeks and lived in what was essentially a hotel. When the embargo in Cuba was tightened in 2004, it required that those visiting with an education license must spend a minimum of 10 weeks. That was when the program went from a summer study-abroad experience to a full semester.
Photo taken in Cuba by Douglas Friedman
These restrictions caused many universities to end their own programs in Cuba, but the College’s commitment to sharing the educational and cultural opportunities in Cuba kept the program alive. “In 2004 there were more than 100 universities with programs in Cuba,” Friedman said. “In 2005 there were three.”
2007 marked the first spring semester in Havana – after attempting a hurricane-filled fall semester in 2005 – and the program has remained in the spring since. Students now live in apartments on the outskirts of Havana, allowing them easy access to the city without the round-the-clock distractions of Havana in such close proximity. It also makes students clean up and cook for themselves, providing them a more immersive experience.
“We’ve progressively tried to make the experience more genuine,” Friedman said. “Now we’re able to rent apartments for short-term use, and students have full kitchens – they’re actually living there. They have to deal with the same food shortages that Cubans deal with, they have to learn the different currencies, and they have to learn to navigate Havana. It’s a much more immersive experience.”
Holmes, who lived in the apartments, is a testament to this. “There is not a better place I could think of to get a full experience of pure Latin American culture,” she said. “I feel like a gained a Cuban family as well as a College of Charleston family.”
Holmes’ account of her time in Havana reflects the many unique opportunities provided through the program – not only is the Cuba program very small, allowing for students to form a tight-knit community, but also living in an embargoed country for 11 weeks is something that few Americans can experience.
Photo taken in Cuba by Britton Holmes
This is unlike any of the other programs we have,” Associate Provost for International Education Andrew Sobiesuo said. “In terms of the experience, the facilities and the adjustment that students have to make. They really learn to appreciate the advantages they have as Americans when they see what Cubans go through on a daily basis. It makes their experience much richer.”
Becoming immersed in the Cuban lifestyle can be jarring for some students. Holmes described ideal participants as “adventurous people who like to experience new cultures.” She went on to say that people interested in political science and/or Latin American history, culture and society as well as those interested in vintage cars, architecture, dancing and nightlife would also enjoy the program.
The next round of students considering studying abroad in Havana have a few months to apply – the deadline is December 1, 2014 – and in the meantime Friedman and Sobiesuo are working to get the program director in Cuba, Humberto Miranda, to Charleston in November for a 15th anniversary celebration and to teach his usual express II courses, Social Movements in Comparative Perspective and Cuban Politics and Society.
During his annual visits to Charleston, Miranda helps recruit students for the program both by providing information on the fascinating classes taught by his fellow University of Havana and Instituto de Filosofia faculty members and telling students about the unique and storied culture that awaits them in Cuba.
For Holmes, the description of daily life and friendly locals in Cuba was the selling point. “Their culture is super inclusive… I feel really lucky to have been able to experience it.”
Film Screening: The Alliance for Full Acceptance and (AFFA) & the Avery Research Center present the South Carolina premier of “The New Black” and a discussion with the film’s producer, Yvonne Welbon. “The New Black” is a powerful story of Black families and churches grappling with gay rights and civil rights in the midst of the fight for marriage equality.
Date/Time/Location: Thursday, March 27, 2014, 6:00pm, 125 Bull Street, Charleston, SC. Free and open to the public.
Black sexuality and gender identities have traditionally been taboo topics – until recently. This fall the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center will host one of the first academic conferences to explicitly focus on these topics and more. “Unleashing the Black Erotic: Gender and Sexuality – Passion, Power and Praxis” will include panels ranging from “Women, Sex, and Hip Hop” to the “State of the Field,” which will feature nationally influential scholars. Renowned journalist and feminist author, Joan Morgan will deliver the keynote address on Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 4:00 p.m., and this event is free and open to the public. The entire conference will be held from September 18 through 21, 2013 at the Avery Research Center (125 Bull St.). View registration information and full schedule here.
For the second year in a row, the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture’s annual conference is breaking ground. Last year’s Black Power conference also drew national attention, including an article in USA Today, and brought international scholars to the College’s campus.
“It is so important that we talk about these issues now, and it is so important that we talk about them here, in Charleston, South Carolina,” says Patricia Lessane, director of the Avery Research Center. “We want to host work that is interesting, work that is being done around the world, and yes, work that is edgy.”
The late African American poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde argued that the “erotic” involves various forms of personal pleasure, from sexuality and physical appearance to art, music, poetry, and performance. During the 1970s, Lorde advocated for African American women to empower themselves by embracing the erotic as part of the black feminist movement. Conference organizers highlighted Lorde’s definition of the erotic in their call for papers and panels, which yielded a record number.
Consuela Francis, College of Charleston professor of African American studies explains, “We will come together to examine what it means to be black, female, male, gay, straight, and anything in between. In doing so, we acknowledge our agency and power, and collectively unleash the black erotic.”
“This conference is very unique,” Lessane adds. “The interdisciplinary nature of ours, and the focus on different black sexualities really makes this conference one of the first of its kind.”
In addition to the panels, there will also be a dramatic performance by E. Patrick Johnson that is free and open to the public. The one-man-show is entitled “Sweet Tea: Stories of Gay Black Men in the South.”
This conference is hosted jointly by the Avery Research Center and the African American Studies program at the College of Charleston. For more information, contact email@example.com or 843.953.7609.