The CET Pre-College program did an impressive job of exposing me to the potent unique culture and history of Cuba while also keeping a firm focus on study of the complex yet wonderfully effective healthcare system of Cuba. All of this knowledge did however come at the cost of an awfully packed schedule, leaving weekends as the sole free time outside of occasional designated work periods after lunch or before and after dinner. However, with the trusting supervision of the CET program mentors I was able to have freedom to explore Cuba independently in the relatively tourist-friendly and safe city of Havana.
One thing I am grateful for that the CET Program provided me was a multitude of social engagement opportunities with both the locals and the medical professionals we met during the scheduled visits of healthcare centers such a children's hospitals, elderly care homes, pre-maternity care, polyclinics and much more. That’s what great about learning about Cuba’s healthcare system through this program, as our knowledge was prefaced with informative reading, supplemented with lecture from an experienced professor of the medical systems, and topped off with meaningful engagement with the very facilities we had learned of. This process of learning really helped cement my learning and just like anything, If you truly want to understand something, you should see it for yourself! The program gives us designated time periods for visits, and lectures daily, and we are invited to ask questions to the healthcare professionals who are eager to explain the processes of what makes the Cuban healthcare system rival and nearly surpass the healthcare efficiency of America and many other first world-countries.
The work accompanying this Cuban healthcare system teaching is fairly easy at best, and annoying at worst, the work consisting solely of reflection-based essay writings about what you had learned during your visits. I was required to keep a daily journal of my experience in a certain field to meet the course minimum of 10 personal reflections at the end of the period. Atop of this are 3 weekly questions to answer which are a bit more lengthy, requiring a 500 word response minimum. This workload throughout the course is largely done in preparation for the final subject paper which is independently focused upon one chosen aspect of the healthcare system. My paper on this subject was smoking and lung cancer, which I alike to many of my peers relied on additional information through pamphlets, additional help from the professor and various online academic journals.
Overall, with a good work ethic and responsible time management I was able to have a spectacularly enjoyable trip and academic experience while handling my coursework with minimal amounts of stress.
Through daily Spanish classes, a regimen of language practice assisted in giving me experience talking to people who share a similar dialect and speed of talking, which had greatly overwhelmed my admittedly less than average Spanish language comprehension and speech. The class is straightforward and discussion based, instructed by teachers who have taught Spanish to speakers of all sorts of different languages. As long as you understand some semblance of Spanish, it will be comfortably assisted process of learning at either the advanced language class or standard class. Homework for Spanish is easily completed and the sole two exams within the course do not distract from achievement within the healthcare system course. The Spanish course within the CET PRe-College program is a good addition.
Another important portion of the CET program experience is the relationship you share with the peers that you share housing, and perhaps even rooming with as there are two people to a room (there was an odd number in the group and I had a room alone it was awesome). I cannot stress how vital the enjoyment I had from my trip revolved around having amicable relations with the peers and mentors of my group was. For a month, we essentially became a family and they shared many of what will undoubtedly become one of my most vivid memories abroad. Whether it was trekking through the mountains during the weekend Las Terrazas trip surrounded by jungle or boating through naturally forming partially submerged caves, almost all of our activities were done as a group. This program is definitely an experience enrichment by communication with others so I highly recommend that you have the will to put yourself out there and socialize with everyone else. That goes for both peers and Cuban citizens.
For me, life in Cuba was a thoroughly relaxing experience. Outside of academics, there was plenty of fun to be had, and every weekend we had free time and scheduled events such as going to the beach, salsa dancing lessons, and our visits to areas outside of Havan such as Las Terrazas and Las Vinales. A fantastic benefit of this program was the trust given to us to travel in Havana within designated areas provided we did so in groups of three with a phone to communicate, and overtime these boundaries was extended as we continued to abide by the rules. Because of this freedom, on a daily and nightly basis my peers and I were able to visit various cafes, desert chops, and gift shops. In my free time I was able to access the (extremely) limited wifi that requires you to purchase wifi for a duration of wither 1 or 5 hours for a single CUC. Therefore, don’t expect to be on your phone too much, because besides the connection restraints there are so many other captivating things in Cuba that will surely be interesting most things on your phone. I seen passionate salsa dancing and singing, saw the giant leafy mountain tops on the mountain town of Las Vinales and had plenty of ice cream everywhere i went. I truly enjoyed the academic and recreational aspects of this program, and I was able to further define the medical career I want in the future with conviction.