Political Science class preps for a Cuban excursion

While many of us will spend the last half of our winter break resting up after the holiday rush, one group of CLU students will head to Cuba, accompanied by California Lutheran University political science professor Gregory Freeland.

Leaving Friday, Jan. 4, from Los Angeles, the group will spend 10 days in Cuba studying the country’s history, culture and political structure.

Cuba is located 90 miles from the coast of Florida and remains a mystery to many Americans.

Freeland hopes the trip will give students an overall education of the country.

“The contrast between what they have heard and even learned about Cuba prior to the trip and the actual experience and how valuable this process is to their overall higher learning experience is what I hope students will learn from this trip,” said Freeland.

Cuba provides a unique learning experience for CLU students. With the distinctive cultural and political atmosphere in the country due to economic boycotts and a communist political system, Cuba will likely open students’ eyes.

“I’m interested in studying Cuba and the different culture. I want to see the way they live their lives,” said Michael Gooch, a CLU student who will be joining Freeland in Cuba.

The history of Cuba will be one of the many focuses of the group. The Cuban Missile Crisis, the writings of Ernest Hemingway and the reign of Fidel Castro will be studied as well.

Students will get to experience the architecture of the country and the history of western influence there.

“It is important for students to get an overall feeling and knowledge base, historical, cultural and political of the Caribbean region as a whole and an introduction to Cuban life and its main characteristics,” said Freeland.

Cuba will also provide a wide array of cultural learning. Traditional music, such as rumba and Cuban drumming will fill the air, as will the crack of a bat hitting a baseball as many Cubans often play one of their national sports. The group will also be introduced to the beaches and local foods.

The CLU students will gain a general understanding of Cuba and its history, culture and politics.

The group is currently enrolled in Caribbean Politics and Culture, a prerequisite for the trip.

In the class they will be introduced to traditional readings, watch Cuban films and listen to Cuban music. Guest speakers will also add to the students’ learning.

“Dr. Freeland would often talk about the Caribbean in class. I have studied abroad before, why not again? It’s going to be great,” said group member Steven Oster.

Freeland said the days will be brimming with activities.

“They will vary and each day and most nights will be a full schedule,” said Freeland.

Planned highlights include a visit to old Havana, a walk through John Lennon Park, a trip to the United States Interests Section in Havana and the capitol.

One night trip will feature an Afro-Cuban religious service with a drumming ceremony that will follow.

Visits to the local nightclub or national ballet will give the group a taste of the music. Eating local food in homes that double as restaurants to introduce them to real Cuban food.

Although this is Freeland’s first trip to Cuba, he has taken CLU students to Jamaica in 2011 and 2012.


Matt O’Brien
Staff Writer
Published Oct. 31, 2012