Howdy! My name is Callie Blake and I am a third-year journalism major at The University of Texas at Austin. Three days from now, on June 2, I will be taking my first trip abroad to Havana, Cuba for an entire month! I’m excited, nervous, happy, and stressed all at the same time.
Since this is not only my first study abroad program with UT Austin but also my first trip outside of the United States, I have so many ideas of what this month-long adventure is going to be like, both good and bad. I’m envisioning a gorgeous island filled with old-timey cars, generous amounts of Cuban hospitality, and a variety of different foods and drinks waiting to be tasted.
In the preparation class I took this past semester that gave me a glimpse of what Cuba would be like, we talked a lot about the racially-charged history of the island, but also focused a little bit on the different ailments we might face, the geography, and what to look out for when we are out exploring. Ever since the Zika virus hit South America, I ’ve been wary of mosquito bites. But it turns out that Cuba was really aggressive in combating Zika and has far fewer reported cases. Secondly, I learned that women in Cuba face blatant sexism such as catcalling and other annoying behaviors but my fears of coming into conflict with Cuban men have been consoled by the fact that I won’t be traveling, at any time, by myself.
Yesterday, I was able to wrap up the last of my shopping list revolving mostly around acquiring travel size containers and the cash needed to stay alive for the next 30 days. Turns out American credit cards are not compatible in Cuba and therefore I will need to carry $600-$1000 in cash. This is a huge sum of money to be carrying around day to day, but thankfully some friends and a few YouTube videos have shown me some tips and tricks about where to store money while abroad.
Watching YouTube videos was also something really helpful in preparing for my time abroad. I’ve watched clips that revolve around other students who have visited the island, packing tip essentials, and general safety tips and tricks about staying in Cuba. I honestly think I’ve watched all there is to watch on YouTube, which makes me sad because that content was actually enjoyable and I could probably watch another 12 hours of it.
The last thing that I won’t be able to clear up until I get to the country and meet up with my classmates and our teacher is how Cuban currency works. While we have discussed the different exchange rates and the two different currencies used in Cuba, I just can’t grasp it. I can’t tell if it’s because I’ve never been the best at understanding math or if it’s because it’s a legitimately confusing process; I guess only time will tell.
I’m so excited to see if my first study abroad program will be all I’ve made it up to be in my head. Right now it seems like my dreams of sunny days at the beach have been temporarily squashed because of the rain Cuba has been experiencing: fingers crossed that doesn’t last long!
Hook ‘Em Horns, my fellow Longhorns, and I can’t wait to get back to you with news of what this beautiful Caribbean island has to offer.
This post was contributed by Callie Blake, a 2018 Global Ambassador.