New Kensington summer course to culminate with trip abroad to Cuba

Penn_State_logo[1]UPPER BURRELL, Pa. — Making the most of Chancellor Kevin Snider’s vision to expand student experiences and embrace diversity for Penn State New Kensington students, the International Trip committee is organizing a summer excursion to the Republic of Cuba.

The 11-day journey, May 31 to June 10, is the capstone of four summer classes — Introduction to Human Development and Family Studies; Ibero American Civilization; Discovery of the Real Cuba: Understanding its Economy and Culture Contributing to its Competitiveness; and Information Technology in an International Context — that run from May 11 to 29. The courses satisfy one of the program requirements for a Certificate in International Studies. Offered at only two Penn State campuses — New Kensington and Shenango — the undergraduate certificate is intended to provide students with a broad and deep understanding of a diverse world.

“This is a good opportunity for students who are interested in acquiring out-of-classroom experiences through travel abroad,” said Rujirutana “Dr. A” Mandhachitara, associate professor of business administration and the event organizer. “The trip also fits well with the campus’ strategic goal to increase international experiences and exposure to cultural diversity among our students.“

The three-credit courses are offered online and open to all Penn State students. The cost of the trip is $2,340, and includes airfare, visa fees, ground transportation, meals and academic registration fees in Havana. Tuition for the class is not a part of the travel costs. Students can pay for the trip in installments. To reserve a spot, a $200 deposit is required by Feb. 10.

Two information sessions will be held at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 3 and 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 4. For more information on the Cuba trip, contact Mandhachitara at 724-334-6769 or [email protected]

Global programs
The journey to Cuba is a part of the Penn State Global Programs initiative that provides students with opportunities to study in foreign lands for varying periods of time — week, summer, semester, or full year. The objective is to offer Penn State students a broader education than can be obtained in the classroom.

Since 2004, nearly 170 campus students have traveled to Spain, France, Italy, China, Greece, Peru, Galapagos Islands, Ireland and Thailand. In conjunction with the trips, students are required to take a related course that enriches their understanding of the destination and its culture. Upon return, participants present their experiences through narratives and slide shows to the campus community. The presentations enable others to share in the immediate travel experience and help to generate excitement in students, as well as faculty and staff, to become involved in future trips.

For the past nine years, the campus has embarked on the promotion of greater awareness and understanding of world issues, international trends and global policy debates. Each year, the campus adopts a country or region of the world to inspire teaching and scholarship. Cuba is this year’s “Country of Focus.” Students, faculty and staff will explore and reflect on various aspects of Cuba’s history, culture and economic, social and political reality throughout the semester.

Beginning with China in 2007, the campus’ international presentations have included Ecuador, India, Spain, Kenya and Tanzania, Ireland and the United Kingdom, Canada, and Turkey.

Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, and the second-most populous with over 11 million inhabitants. It is located 93 miles south of the United States. The country is surrounded by the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, Mexico, Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Haiti. Havana is the capital and largest city with a population of 2.2 million.

A colony of Spain for more than 400 years, Cuba became a United States protectorate in 1902 following the Spanish-American War. A weakened democratic country, it was politically unstable for 50 years before Fulgencio Batista installed a dictatorship, which further unhinged the country. Batista’s power gave rise to a revolution led by Fidel Castro, who ousted Batista in 1959. Castro appointed himself as the new leader of the country and aligned with the Communist Party of Cuba, which has ruled the island since 1965. In response to Castro taking over American companies in Cuba, President Kennedy placed an economic and financial embargo on the country in 1960 that is still in place officially. Under President Obama, the icy relationship between the two countries is beginning to thaw, and travel restrictions have eased.

Penn State has a connection to Cuba, In addition to New Kensinton students going to Cuba as a part of their classes, the Penn State Nittany Lion baseball team barnstormed the country last fall, playing against teams from Cuba’s National League.

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