February 5, 2014, by Guest blog

From the sublime to the ridiculous…

Tomorrow I fly to Havana, Cuba for 5 months. After just recently finishing my six-month internship at an audit firm in Stuttgart, Germany, I can say with certainty that the study placement at La Universidad de la Habana will bring a fair share of unique cultural challenges. The term ‘from the sublime to the ridiculous’ comes to mind when I think of going from Germany, a country not too different from England, to Cuba, a country which has been described as ‘frozen in time’.

When people first hear that I am going to Havana for an extended period of time their reaction is usually one of amazement and slight envy it seems. When most people imagine travelling to Cuba they perhaps picture themselves ensconced at a rather glamorous hotel; mojito in one hand, cigar in the other. However, a two-week visit to the country is very different to the experience of living in a ‘casa particular’ for 5 months. The idea of studying in Cuba always seemed a rather surreal one to me; something that would never really materialise. However, as my flight edges closer the prospect is becoming all too real. Whilst feeling ready for the cultural challenge that awaits me on the biggest island in the Caribbean, I cannot help feeling slightly nervous about the fact that I am going to be living in a communist country, a country completely incomparable with anywhere else in the world. The dubious internet connection, the lack of contact with the outside world, the uncomfortable relationship with its neighbour, the US, and the strong Cuban accent all play a factor in my slight apprehension. However, my tutor, who is also the Cuban expert at Nottingham told us not to go with too many preconceptions or comparisons, but rather to go to Cuba with an open-mind. I chose to go to Cuba because I wanted a unique challenge. I knew very well when I signed up that it wouldn’t necessarily be an easy placement, but with that I hope it may be a more rewarding one.

As I pack my bags to the ‘Gipsy Kings’ album playing in the background I can’t help feel that my work placement in Stuttgart, although completely different to life in Cuba, has and will help me during my stay on the former colonial island. The good work habits that Stuttgart has taught me have not only made me more independent, but also far more capable of dealing with problems as they arise. In this respect, I have gained patience and the ability to see the big picture. I am grateful that Cuba is my second placement as I now feel far more prepared than I would have six months ago. I am now equipped for change; the most important skill I think there is to be gained on the year abroad.

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