Bio: Kaitlyn Tyler

Guillermo (last name not given), a journalist and teacher, discusses housing conditions for the students in Cuba's educational system. © Sean Hughes

Guillermo (last name not given), a journalist and teacher, discusses housing conditions for the students in Cuba’s educational system. © Sean Hughes

Global studies is a very important thing because it allows individuals, societies, and cultures to understand other individuals, societies, and cultures.  When traveling abroad, it is best to be as informed as you possibly can, so as not to be a tourist and see only the surface attractions a location has to offer.  As an explorer or traveler, the whole point is to experience the meat and potatoes of your destination–not simply the outer shell.  This is obviously much more difficult than finding a tourists’ guide at the bus station, but infinitely more valuable and rewarding in the end.  I believe it is good to understand how others think simply to expand your horizons and realize that the way you were brought up wasn’t how every other human being was brought up.  Seeing differences and learning to still be compassionate will help you to bring more to your own culture and point of view.

My own passions are many, ever-changing, and continually the list grows.  Food I believe is one of the easiest ways for two souls to unite.  And that is what amazes me and fills me with a sense of wonder: how two people can form a connection over something so simply, yet even if they are worlds apart even in language, smiles and joys can be exchanged as food is passed around the table.  Making connections and forming warm memories is a great passion of mine.  However, I have a great passion for life in general.  Seeing a crocus break through the snow in early spring, watching a dog lick the face of a small child, causing the child’s laughter to burst from between its lips–these wordless interactions of life are truly miracles in my eyes.  Traveling and seeing how other people live and speak is fascinating.  I always have a sharp eye and ear out for what people say, wear, and their mannerisms in order to get an insider’s glimpse of how they think, and ultimately who someone is.

Why Cuba?  Cuba is full of possibilities and more importantly, contradictions.  I believe it will be quite interesting to witness such a society that does not mesh with the cultural values: religion vs. atheism, machismo vs. gender equality, past elegance vs. present decay.  Cuba is also renowned for their education system since it seems to be such a high priority, along with their low illiteracy rates.  I cannot wait to find out what their curriculum is like, along with perhaps some insight into the lives of education majors at the universities in Havana.  The food, of course, will most likely be very different than expected.  The fact that tourists will be served whatever they want until the food runs out, while the Cuban waiters have nothing in comparison is not something I look forward to seeing, but nonetheless I believe it will be critical for deep learning to occur during this trip, especially because in the United States this practice would be illegal.  The openness of the Cubans will certainly be a culture shock, as will be the condition of the cars that have been so skillfully hodge-podged into continual functionality.  Most of all, however, I want to go to Cuba because I want to experience a culture that is absolutely nothing like the United States and challenge myself to learn as much as possible and grow as a person.

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