The Global Education Office and the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies are pleased to offer a unique summer study-abroad program in Cuba through the Autonomous University for Social Movements (AUSM). This service-oriented experience focuses on the point where theory and practice meet (praxis). Students will learn from Cuban scholars, artists, and activists in a popular education setting. They will discuss history, economics, gender relations, critical race, and decolonial theories in the context of the “lifting” of the trade embargo between the U.S. and Cuba. This is truly the most unique time to be on the ground in Cuba, learning about the culture, history, and politics. It is an immersive language experience, and Spanish language classes are offered for varying levels of proficiency.
Please note that there is a current US Department of State Travel Warning for Cuba
Course and Credit Options
- GSWS 391: Global Scholar/Activist Spaces: GSWS in Havana, Cuba (6 credits, Dr. Canfield)
- GSWS 691: Global Scholar/Activist Spaces: GSWS in Havana, Cuba (3 credits, Dr. Canfield)
This course can be taken for 6 credits on the undergraduate level (GSWS 391) or 3 credits on the graduate level (GSWS 691), with the option of adding 3 additional credits doing a service project upon return to Richmond, VA.
Students will receive transfer credit for all coursework completed in this program. In order to receive credit, students must earn the equivalent of a C or better.
The core program consists of two classes integrated in a modular system that utilizes an interdisciplinary pedagogy combining theoretical classes with workshops and experiential learning. Instruction focuses on a distinct theme each week. Reading materials are drawn from sociology, political science, anthropology, economics, history, literature, and other relevant disciplines. Students meet for 13 hours of formal academic classes each week organized around discussion of assigned readings. Two workshops or meetings each week (6 hours) allow students to work directly with Cuban academics, political leaders and social actors. One or two experiential learning encounters each week (3 to 6 hours) enable students to connect theory with practice. Experiential workshops may include visits to public schools, medical centers, cooperatives, NGOs, and popular organizations. Students participate in one or two cultural events each week, including Cuba’s world-renowned cinema, dance, music, theater, sports events, etc.
Students also prepare a final project, in which they begin to think about their re-entry to the US and how they will put their experiences in Cuba to work both academically and socially. The final project may be a paper, written individually or collectively, or it may involve production of a play or video, development of an educational program for a US audience, production of art, planning a conference, production of a zine, etc., with subject matter determined in consultation with professors. Students whose final project consists of a performance, presentation, or work or art will also be asked to write a theoretical justification of their project. The final projects are presented in seminar-style format with fifteen minutes for presentation and twenty minutes for discussion/critique by fellow students and professors.
In addition to spending 4 weeks in and around Havana, students spend a week in central Cuba and at least one weekend at Cuba’s world famous beaches.
Because this is a service-learning course, it is expected for students to be actively engaged in the preparation work before departure, the collaborative learning and work while in Cuba, and the community activist work upon their return. The combination of service and academic work creates a rigorous experience that attends to intellectual, creative, and community needs. Students who do the 3 additional-credit option will be asked to do an additional or more extensive research-informed community project upon their return to the U.S.
While there are no official pre-reqs for this course, we prefer that students have a conversational Spanish background. We will provide basic Spanish instruction during orientation during the spring 2018 semester.
Accommodations and Meals
Accommodations include housing in Havana, Cuba. All meals will be provided.
Liz Canfield, PhD has led study abroad programs to Chiapas, Cuba, India, and Brazil for the last 6 years. Dr. Canfield is a member of VCU’s Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Department and does academic, creative, and activist work around issues of race, gender, migration, decolonial/postcolonial critique, and sexuality, to name a few.
A valid passport is required to leave the US. If a student does not already have a passport, they are advised to begin the application process as soon as they are accepted into the program. The processing time for new passport applicants can be as long as 8 weeks. For students who already have passports, they will need to verify that the passport’s validity dates extend 6 months past their return date. For more information about passports and the application/renewal process, please consult the State Department's website
Payment of fees
In order to complete the application, students are required to submit a $250 registration fee and deposit. This $250 registration fee and deposit is refundable in two cases: if the program is cancelled, or if a student is rejected by the faculty member based on their qualifications to participate in the program. Reasons for rejection could include, but are not limited to, GPA, lack of a pre-requisite, unacceptable or inappropriate statement of interest, etc. and are at the discretion of the faculty program director. However, if a student pays the fee and is not given final acceptance to the program based on failing to complete application requirements, as determined by the Education Abroad office or faculty director, the $250 is non-refundable.
Students will receive one charge to their student accounts for this program reflecting the balance of the program fee (minus the $250 deposit and application fee). This bill will be charged through VCU Student Accounting and should appear by May.
Please note: It is the student’s responsibility to make sure the account balance is paid before the billing due date.
Withdrawal procedures and financial commitment policy
All withdrawals must be made formally in writing and submitted to the Director of Education Abroad. Otherwise, the program fee will not be refunded. After committing to the program, students deciding to withdraw will be held accountable for a portion of or the entire program fee based on the following schedule:
- Formal withdrawal submitted later than 30 days before the first day of the program abroad: 100% of the program fee will be charged
- Formal withdrawal submitted within 30-60 days before the first day of the program abroad: 75% of the program fee will be charged
- Formal withdrawal submitted within 60-90 days before the first day of the program abroad: 50% of the program fee will be charged
In the event an unexpected emergency occurs within 30 days before the first day of the program abroad, students must provide a physician’s certification that his/her condition prohibits participation. In this case, refunds will be limited to only those funds VCU is able to recover or that have not already been spent on behalf of the student.
See above for refund policy on $250 registration fee and deposit.
Students should schedule an appointment with their physician or at a travel clinic (such as VCU Student Health) at least 4 to 8 weeks before the program to inquire about recommended and/or required vaccines/immunizations. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that all routine and travel immunizations are up-to-date.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on recommended and required immunizations for travelers. To view the health risks and requirements for the country to which you will be traveling, please visit the CDC's website
Health Alert: Zika Virus
The CDC has issued a travel alert for countries where the Zika virus is prevalent. Check the CDC’s travel notices
regularly as new countries are being added to this list. Check VCU Student Health
to stay updated as well.
VCU Student Health offers in-depth pre-travel consultation with a health care provider as well as most of the vaccines recommended for safe travel. Prescriptions for recommended medicines are also available. Please visit their website
for full details.
Every effort is made to provide updated and accurate information at the time of publication. The sponsors reserve the right to make necessary changes to the programs and costs. The university reserves the right to revise or alter all fees, regulations pertaining to student fees, and fee collection procedures at any time