How can Cuba integrate into the global economy while preserving its rich cultural history?
Days: 14 • Group Size: 10 - 12 • Ages: 15 - 18
July 16 - July 29 Limited
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Cuba: Preserving Culture, Sustaining Community

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Cuba Summer Program

Is it legal to travel to Cuba and what does the new US presidential administration mean for travel to Cuba?

Cuba. Once the Caribbean’s most prosperous island, a vibrant cultural history combined with decades of isolation and the legacy of communism has created a destination unlike anywhere else on the planet. Ask a Cuban about their relationship with the past and they will tell you, “It’s complicated.” You have to be there to even start to comprehend Cuba. And now is the time to do it, while Cuba is in “transition” and a new era of post-Soviet cooperation between the US and Cuba is unfolding.

In this Sustainable Summer Program…

  • You’ll learn about Cuba’s fascinating cultural and political history
  • You’ll interact with the Cuban people daily
  • You’ll dance and sing and get caught up in the magic of Cuba’s arts scene

Your Sustainable Summer experience will span from Havana’s old town to the colonial cities of Trinidad and Cienfuegos and to the verdant countryside of rural Cuba, where farming communities and ecologically important reserves blend seamlessly into the colorful cultural landscape.

Our Cuba summer program is ideal for high school students with a strong interest in environmental sustainability, and particularly those who are curious to understand how Cuba can integrate into the global economy while still preserving its rich cultural history. The program has a special emphasis on cultural sustainability and questions of economic justice, and is a great option for students that have an interest in the creative arts and the issue of cultural preservation in the face of global economic forces, in addition to those interested in our more “typical” themes connected to human-environment interaction.

Not sure if this is the right option for you? Use our Compare Programs page to help you assess which Sustainable Summer is the best fit for your interests and comfort zone.

 

Explore La Habana

Cuba's enchanting capital where new meets old like nowhere else in the world

Dance

Cuba is famous for its dance and music -- so get ready to bailar

Discover

the sleepy agricultural communities in rural Cuba, as well as the colonial city of Trindad

2017 Facilitators *

Skyeler Congdon

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Haley Ross

Haley Ross

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Cuba Testimonials

Andrea had an incredible experience with SS this summer… Life changing from what I can tell and all for the good! She continues to be in touch with others from the group and I hope she will maintain those ties! There is special “chemistry” that happens when people travel and experience something like SS together. […]

  Connie,  parent from Ipswich, MA

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More On Cuba...
 

Core Curriculum & Program Components

Much More Than A Tour

Amazing destination? Check. Fun and authentic experiences? Absolutely. A smart, down-to-earth group of like-minded teens? Yup. An awesome itinerary and first-in-class lodging are just the start. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders through dynamic place-based learning.
 
Field Studies
How can Cuba integrate into the global economy while preserving its rich cultural history? This essential question guides our experience studying sustainability in . Participants – through discussions, workshops, site visits, and fieldwork – will investigate sustainability with the understanding that truly sustainable solutions take into account not only the environment, but also the people, culture and economy of a given place.
Leadership Activities
Our approach to leadership development is adapted from the Stanford Graduate School of Education’s youth leadership curriculum.
Design Thinking Challenge
Participate in a half-day design thinking workshop, including a real innovation challenge applied to a local community problem. Design thinking is a formal process innovators use to create solutions to problems. We'll learn about human-centered design, and then engage members of the local community to conceive a project that is usable, sustainable, and lead to better outcomes within the community.
Independent Project
Learning happens best through a constructivist approach of inquiry, action, and reflection. Students should be prepared to engage in an independent project for the duration of the program that follows this approach. It can take the form of journalism, photography, film, research, advocacy, or other. Some students (for instance, those in an IB degree program) may find that they have a school-related project that can connect to Sustainable Summer. Others will be asked to develop a project concept through a guided process pre-program. The final "deliverable" is completed after the program.
Case Study
It's easy to be green when you have the time, resources, and autonomy to do so. But the real-world is far more complicated. We'll work through a multi-stakeholder case study related to a local issue so students can better understand the process of negotiation and comprise that is needed to implement sustainable solutions.
Sustainability Action Plan
All students develop a Sustainability Action Plan, which outlines a proposed sustainability initiative to complete back home. The SAP is considered a work in progress that gets “workshopped” in small group settings throughout the program. The final version is shared with the group at the end of the program and “accountability partners” are established to encourage implementation of the outlined action steps.

Program Tuition

Each program has a tiered tuition rate: standard (full tuition), tuition assistance (80% of tuition), or scholarship (15 - 70% of tuition).

How It Works

$ 3995
  • This represents a 20% reduction of the standard course fee. Participants at this tuition rate cover only their direct participation costs, including lodging, meals, activities, in-country staff and transportation, and support for local projects. Participation at this level is based on the honor system. It is available to all families - no documentation required. We simply ask families to honestly consider their financial resources and ability to pay the full tuition rate.
$ 720 - 3355
  • Additional scholarship funding is available for students that are unable to participate at either of the other rates. Scholarship participants receive a 30 - 85% reduction of the standard course fee. Due to the limited availability of scholarship funds, a separate application is required, including a parent financial statement and recent tax return.

What's Included

Accommodations

in eco-lodges and other locally-owned (and often sustainably-minded) establishments

Meals

3 meals daily while in-country. Local cuisine, served family-style, is on order most days. Dietary restrictions can typically be accommodated.

Immersive Activities

Guided activities, from the adventurous to the cultural, are a regular part of the itinerary.

Dynamic Learning Opportunities

Place-based. Interactive. Fun. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders.

Ground Transportation

Once in country, all travel will be by private coach when we are traveling any significant distance, although we may occasionally use other transport when traveling locally. This can range from a cattle truck to the local bus. Traveling like a local is part of the experience!

2 Full-Time Professional Facilitators

Our international field team includes returned Peace Corps volunteers, college professors, seasoned wilderness guides, sustainability graduate students, and similar.

Pre-Program Materials and Support

Students and parents receive comprehensive and prompt pre-program support.

Not Included

Tuition does not include round trip airfare from Miami (see Flights section below for more info), 25 CUC (approximately $28 USD) airport departure tax, or tourist visa ($85 USD). Personal expenses such as laundry, snacks, souvenirs, and internet or international phone calls, and other incidentals are also not included.

Flights

We designate an international group flight for students. Students traveling to Cuba are expected to travel on this flight, which we arrange for the group. Very detailed travel and booking instructions will be provided to all participants upon enrollment. We provide the below information as a courtesy to prospective families for planning purposes.

Our designated round trip group flight:

Escort On Outbound Flight Only

Outbound Flight

Miami (MIA)
Santa Clara (SNU)
American
2751

Return Flight

Havana (HAV)
Miami (MIA)
American
2678

Important

  • Do not make any flight reservations until explicitly directed by Sustainable Summer. Enrolled families - please check your MySummer account for more information. This is the only source of completely accurate and up-to-date information about our flight logistics.
  • There will be a staff escort only on the outbound flight from Miami, not the return.
  • Students typically arrive in MIA the day of the outbound flight to Cuba, but we can also arrange a hotel stay for the night prior if needed.

14-Day Itinerary

  • Arrival in Trinidad Cuba

    We'll arrive into the Santa Clara airport, a short 1-hour flight from Miami and a 2-hour drive from the coastal colonial town of Trinidad where we'll settle in for our first days in Cuba. We'll take private transport from the airport to our Casas Particulares located in the center of Trinidad.

    Casa Particulares are similar to a bed and breakfast in the US and are both an example of the growing role of private enterprise in Cuba as well as a wonderful opportunity to interact closely with Cuban families. In Trinidad students will be housed in a single large casa but at other points during the program we'll house students in two gender-segregated casas on the same block with one of our staff in each home.

    After getting settled into our new home and becoming acquainted with our hosts, we'll enjoy a delicious dinner and then take a walking tour of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and then enjoy an evening excursion to the House of Music.

    Day 1
  • Trinidad

    In Trinidad where we'll focus on understanding local agriculture, the (un)availability of resources, and the role of tourism in the Cuban economy through interactions with local people. For instance, at a lunch with an artists' collective we'll learn about the (un)availability of materials and subsequent creative and improvisational methods that artists have developed.

    Day 2
  • Topes de Collantes
    We’ll go on a one-night camping trip in the Topes de Collante national park. Today, we’ll hike with local naturalists to learn about endemic species and herbal remedies; visit a coffee farm to see Cuba's agricultural system in action; and then - with the help of our guides - set up camp and dine al fresco under the starts.

    The next day we’ll start with a hike to a nearby waterfall, then return to town and get cleaned up after our camping adventure. In the afternoon, we’ll visit a museum, a factory where workers weave, and other parts of town to examine the role of tourism as the primary driver of the local economy Day 3 & 4

  • The Bay of Pigs and Fish Cave
    Travel to Zapata Swamp, an ecologically important wetlands established through the international Convention on Wetlands. On the way, we’ll visit the Bay of Pigs museum for insight into Cuba's official narrative and values. We’ll also stop for a swim at Fish Cave, a cenote that connects underground with the sea. We’ll check into our casas for the next two nights. Day 5
  • Zapata Swamp
    Spend the day in Zapata Swamp with local conservationists to learn about their work. Visit various microclimates that illustrate the area's biodiversity and a nearby crocodile farm. Dinner of roast pig, where we’ll be joined by a band for dinner and a concert including música campesina, the music of rural Cuba. Day 6
  • Rural Cuba
    Travel to the city of Matanzas. On the way, we’ll join a family in rural Cuba for some cultural exchange. We’ll ride a cargo truck to a nearby river. We'll spend the afternoon getting to know them, singing guitar songs, swimming, and together we'll prepare caldosa, a stew of root vegetables. Saying farewell to our new friends, it’s another 20 minutes to the city of Matanzas where we’ll check into our casas. Day 7
  • Salsa and Sustainability
    Orientation to the city of Matanzas with a walking tour through town. We’ll visit a community revitalization and mutual aid project that addresses challenges of marginalized populations; Meet with a local government agency working in sustainability; and finish our the day with a dinner featuring a local salsa band. Day 8
  • Conservation in Varadero and Varahicacos
    Head north to Varadero, Cuba's biggest and busiest beach resort area. Meet with conservationists at Varadero's Office for Beach Conservation and Restoration to learn how they balance the impacts of tourism with ecological conservation; visit the Varahicacos nature reserve with local naturalists. Day 9
  • La Habana Vieja

    Havana is a magical place that combines old world charm with the vibrance of Cuban culture. We’ll visit four of the five historic plazas containing the largest collection of remaining colonial-era architecture in the Western hemisphere.

    Morning meeting with representatives of Grupo de Desarrollo Integral de la Ciudad (City's Integral Development Group) for a presentation on Planning, Restoration, and Urbanization in Old Havana. After lunch, we'll return to the hotel for a bit of downtime and then an afternoon "scavenger hunt" of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We'll also enjoy a post-dinner walk along Havana's Malecon, the waterfront that is a hub of local life. Days 10

  • Early 20th Century Cuba and the Revolution

    Day in the Vedado neighborhood with visits to residential areas and hotel/casinos representative of Cuba prior to the Revolution. We'll visit a ration store and a public/private produce market; Meet a small state-supported women's choir and an independent dance company; Dinner at a Cuban/Soviet restaurant, a throwback to Cuba's strong ties to the former USSR.

    Day 11
  • 1990 to the Present day

    Meeting with Cuban entrepreneurs to understand the rise of small private businesses in Cuba including a bakery/cafe and an auto garage. We'll take a guided tour of the Museum of Fine Arts to explore Cuba's history through its world renowned art. We'll end the day with an evening excursion to the Cuban Art Factory, a public/private partnership, to better understand the new Cuban economy.

    Day 12
  • Sustainability Under “Special” Circumstances
    Cuba's urban farms and other creative sustainability measures were essential for survival during the "special" period that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and Cuba's economic isolation from the rest of the world. We'll start the day with a meeting at a government agency that works on sustainability and then depart for a full day at an urban organic farm on the outskirts of Havana, learning about the farm, preparing and enjoying a farm to table lunch, and working side by side with local farmers. Program wrap-up and farewell dinner. Day 13
  • Departure
    Flight home to Miami. Day 14
  • An Important Note About Itinerary Changes

    Sustainable Summer reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the program itinerary. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in weather or road conditions; to take advantage of a new activity or unscheduled opportunity (such as a local festival or event); to accommodate the health needs of an individual participant; or due to changes in activities or schedules of our local partners and providers.

    The itinerary shown here is based on previous programs and the anticipated day-to-day activities for this program. However, as with any travel experience, some changes may occur.