By Mary G.

Over spring break, the SEM girls in the Spanish program traveled to Havana, Cuba for 10 days. With Ms. Coffey and Señora Rivera, the group of 10 students, and Sra. Rivera’s son spent their days walking the city and taking in the sites. Olivia Smith ‘24 said she went on the trip because “Cuba is a once-in-a-lifetime experience” she couldn’t miss. Julia Leslie ‘23 sought to practice her Spanish with native speakers. And that they did. 

The group got to immerse and learn a completely different world. With Sra. Rivera’s generous and friendly nature, they visited people’s homes where they got a closer look at their everyday lives. Olivia said: “My favorite part was honestly everything! I loved the culture; how nice people were, I loved the old cars, the food, and the architecture of the buildings.” On the trip, SEM traveled to a Spanish school in Cuba as well. About the school visit, Olivia expressed her love for the school and the students there, who she still remains in contact with. There has been an exchange with this school proposed and mentioned for the upcoming years.

However, Cuba is a drastic contrast from Buffalo. Julia explained: “The hardest was learning more about the struggles Cuba faced historically; it is very interesting but very dark. When you learn more about America’s role in destabilizing Cuba, it’s even harder.”

SEM’s generosity was shown from almost 1,500 away: Sra. Rivera and Ms. Coffey encouraged the students to bring things like clothing, toiletries, and non-perishable foods to give away to Cubans. When asked what she wished could have gone differently, Julia said she wished “I brought more things to give away.”

Many events were unplanned, as there is a lack of reliable internet in Cuba. They stumbled into museums, roamed for restaurants, and caught an unplanned ferry across the ocean. The students were going to see the Ernest Hemmingway house, the farm where the infamous writer lived, but miscommunication caused by those internet problems halted the plans. 

Nonetheless, the students couldn’t recommend the trip more. Olivia said: “I would definitely recommend this trip to future students because it was such an amazing experience that I will never forget and so many amazing memories were made!” From a more academic perspective, Julia recommends the trip because “it is a terrific learning experience, both because you get to improve your language skills, and you learn so much about the island’s history.”

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