Tampa-to-Cuba student trip could make history

Tampa, Florida — It starts with something small: walking up to a check-in counter labeled “Cuba Charter” at Tampa International Airport on Saturday.

But there’s hope this 18-student trip eventually leads to something huge: a permanent connection between Eckerd College in St. Petersburg and the University of Havana to study marine science, economics, and more.

An economics class from Eckerd will spend two weeks on a potentially historic trip to Cuba. They’ll focus on learning about the country, but they’re also part of a larger project to create a major, permanent partnership between a college in our area and a university in Cuba.

For several days before the trip, they’ve spent time in Professor Peter Hammerschmidt’s class going over cultural do’s and don’t’s, getting international ID cards, and talking about the very different economy they’ll see in Cuba.

Capitalist freedom here, communist control there.

By law, state universities can’t spend money on travel to Cuba. But Eckerd is a private school. The students have special government permits to make the trip.

One of those students, Christina Rosetti, says she’s so excited about the adventure ahead she hasn’t slept in a week.

She’s the daughter of a Cuban refugee. Her mom was a month old when her grandparents brought their family to America to get away from the Castro regime.

Now Rosetti is going back — to connect with her heritage and be a part of history, as the USA softens its relations with Cuba.

“With us going at this time in history, it’ll be interesting to see firsthand what kind of changes have been made,” Rosetti said.

“My mom visited in ’99, so hearing the differences between when she went then to now, it’ll be interesting to see how much the relations have already changed.”

This potential relationship between colleges in our area and Cuba puts Tampa Bay out in front during these big, national changes.

One sign of that: Congresswoman Kathy Castor will be at the airport Saturday as the students head out on their historic flight.

See video: http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/education/2015/01/09/tampa-to-cuba-student-trip-could-make-history/21487727/

By  Grayson Kamm, WTSP

10 News, January 9, 2015

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