Cuban Close-up

Winter 2012 FLSA Cuba group

Did you know that NMU is one of only 16 U.S. institutions granted a license for study abroad programs in Cuba?  In the summer of 2012, Professor Amy Orf led 13 students on the university’s first Faculty-Led Study Abroad program in Cuba.  Students had the opportunity to visit three different cities and over a dozen different cultural and historical sites in just eight days.   

For more details about the Winter 2012 Cuba FLSA, and information about future Cuba trips, read the following Q&A with Professor Orf:

1. Why did you choose to take students to Cuba in particular?

I chose to take students to Cuba so they could experience firsthand the history and culture of this neighboring country that has been off-limits to U.S. citizens for so long.

 Click here to read about the firsthand experience of two NMU students who traveled to Cuba.

2. How many times has there been a Faculty-Led Study Abroad in Cuba?

This was NMU’s first Faculty-Led Study Abroad program in Cuba. Recent changes in U.S. regulations regarding educational travel in Cuba now allow for short-term study abroad; prior to that, students had been required to spend an entire semester in Cuba to qualify for an educational license. In January 2011 NMU entered into an agreement with the Universidad de Matanzas – Camilo Cienfuegos in Matanzas, Cuba, approximately 50 miles east of Havana, whereby NMU students can enroll and study there.

3. How many times have you personally been to Cuba? Statue of Jose Marti, Havana

This FLSA was my third trip to Cuba. Previously, I had accompanied the NMU delegation to Matanzas in January 2011 in order to sign the agreement with UMCC, and I had co-led NMU students to Havana in May 2003 to build playgrounds with the humanitarian group “It’s Just the Kids.”

4.  What dates were you in Cuba?

We left Marquette on May 9, but had to spend the night in Miami, so we arrived in Havana on May 10. We left Havana on May 18, again spent the night in Miami, and arrived back in Marquette on May 19.

5.  Where in Cuba did you travel?

During our time in Cuba we traveled to Havana (4 days), Matanzas (3 days), and the resort town of Varadero (1 day). We visited many different historical and cultural sites, including the Plaza de la Revolución (Plaza of the Revolution), the Capitolio (National Capitol), the fortresses El Morro and La Cabaña, Callejón de Hamel (Hamel Alley), Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts), and Museo de la Revolución (Museum of the Revolution) (all in Havana), and the Galería de Arte Provincial (Gallery of Provincial Art), Ediciones Vigía (Vigía Publishing), Iglesia de Monserrate (Monserrate Church), the fortress Castillo del Morrillo, Museo Histórico Provincial (Provincial Historical Museum), and Museo Farmacéutico (Pharmaceutical Museum) (all in Matanzas). We also saw a Cabaret show, had a salsa-dancing lesson, and went to the beach in Varadero.

6. What were your accommodations?


Havana CapitolioIn Havana we stayed at the Hotel Plaza, which was very conveniently located near the Capitolio, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and the Museo de la Revolución. The rooms were nice and there was a rooftop restaurant with a beautiful view and an excellent breakfast buffet. In Matanzas we stayed at the Hotel Canimao. It was conveniently located near the Universidad de Matanzas and right next to the Tropicana (Cabaret).

7. What was the overall objective of the FLSA in Cuba?

This FLSA was a 2-credit course, LG295/SN495 “Discovering Cuba.” Students who had taken the appropriate Spanish prerequisite completed coursework in Spanish and received credit for SN495; others completed coursework in English and received credit for LG295. We had 8 class sessions on NMU’s campus during the Winter 2012 semester, in which we discussed Clifford L. Staten’s The History of Cuba and watched several Cuban movies and documentaries. I invited a guest speaker, as well, Dr. Mayra Heydrich, of the Universidad de La Habana, who visited NMU’s campus in April. We also had two guest lectures at the Universidad de Matanzas, one on the history of Matanzas and one on the Cuban economy. The overall objective of the FLSA was for students to gain a better understanding of Cuban history and culture by experiencing them firsthand.

Havana Industriales8. In your opinion, what was the highlight of the trip?

I particularly enjoyed the old fortresses in Havana and the cannon-firing ceremony (el cañonazo); special rumba dance performance for us; Ediciones Vigía in Matanzas, where they publish beautiful handmade books; and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, where we had a guided tour of the Cuban art collection. However, I think the highlight of the trip was meeting the Havana Industriales baseball team, who were in Matanzas for the playoffs and happened to stay at the same hotel. The students really enjoyed meeting the team and watching the games (on television), and several people brought home autographed baseballs.

9. How can students learn more about future Cuba trips?

Information will be posted to the Modern Languages homepage and the International Programs page as information becomes available. For more information, contact Amy Orf at or 227-1876.