Cuba is home to over 11 million people and is the most populous island nation in the Caribbean. As the last major Spanish colony to gain independence, Cuba was relinquished of Spain’s control with the Treaty of Paris. While the 2004 regulations resulted in the cancellation of most U.S. study abroad programs in Cuba and dramatically decreased the number of U.S. students studying there, the new regulations under President Obama eases restrictions on length or time of study, expand opportunities faculty and staff travel to Cuba, and create a special licensing category for other non-credit bearing educational opportunities in Cuba.
With the rise and fall of Fidel Castro, Castro's impact had led to the Special Period's Soviet collapse with shortages from the bar on American donations, to the Black Spring's imprisonment of civil activists. As a totalitarian communist state headed by Raul Castro, the government maintains complete control over all forms of mass media, including newspapers, internet, radio and television, with an estimated 14% of its population having access to the Internet. The military plays a dominant role in the economy, particularly in tourism, civil aviation, foreign trade, and retail operations. Tourism marks a key sector of Cuba’s economy where new tourist facilities and renovations of historical structures will increase the number of tourists and provide growing revenues for the Cuban economy. In addition to exports of professional services, sugar, nickel, and biotechnology, tourism and studying abroad can be expected to rise with the new ease of travel regulations. All visitors require a tourist card (CUC $15), which is usually issued with your plane ticket or can be bought at airports.
From historical cities to exotic beaches, Cuba boasts rich history and warm locals in the year-round tropical weather of the Caribbean. As a designated UNESCO Biosphere Preserve, the Reserva de la Biosfera Sierra del Rosario is the extensive national park that is surprisingly lesser known than the beaches and landmarks. Take the day to hike in the mountains and forests, camp overnight, or just spend the day underneath the beautiful waterfalls and enjoy local food from the handful of authentic restaurants in the area. As for the iconic beaches, warm waters and white sand beaches make up the coastline or Varadero, alongside tourist destinations for resorts, snorkeling, and excursions.
Take a scenic train ride to Havana: the capital of Cuba. The most popular historical landmarks to visit include the Capital Building, Plaza de la Revolución and the giant fortress of Castillo de la Real Fuerza. The infamous night life of Havana boasts bars and hotel lobbies featuring live bands playing Cuban music - a key feature of the lifestyle of Havana. As one of the countries with the most powerful and iconic history concerning human rights,government, and foreign relations, the country is now open to explore for students to study and observe in Cuba.