As the nation ponders whether or not it’s a good idea for the United States to normalize relations with Cuba, 18 students from Eckerd College in St. Pete are packing their bags for a two-week trip to the island nation.
The trip is part of a study-abroad course led by economics Professor Peter Hammerschmidt. Students will learn about the history and development of Cuba’s economic system and look at the nation’s efficiency, income distribution, resource ownership and government involvement. The group will compare Cuba’s economy to that of the U.S.
Much as the United States will now open an embassy in Cuba, Eckerd College is developing its relationship with Cuba through a partnership with the University of Havana that will allow marine science students and faculty to begin studying the nation’s marine environment this summer.
Unlike state colleges bound by state law from using public money to travel to Cuba, Eckerd College is private and not subject to those regulations. This will be Hammerschmidt’s third trip to Cuba, but his first with students.
“This is a significant opportunity to live in and study a culture, economy and political system significantly different from our own,” Hammerschmidt said.
Prior to the trip, students will spend a week doing classwork preparing them for the trip to explore five regions of the country.
“We are excited that our students and faculty will be able to study in Cuba,’’ said Suzan Harrison, Ph.D., dean of faculty, who traveled to Havana recently to discuss a relationship with the University of Havana. “It is one of the most fascinating countries in the world and only 90 miles from Florida.”
The students will leave from Tampa International Airport on January 10. The course is one of 20 Winter Term study-abroad courses. The programs allow students to study nations throughout the world, including China, Italy, Belize, Spain and Ecuador.