Four final-year Hispanic Studies students spent three weeks in Havana during the Easter vacation on a work placement thanks to funding from the Faculty of Humanities Mobility Fund and the generosity of John Washington, a donor to the University.
Two students worked at the University of Havana teaching English, and two worked as translators for the cultural journal La Jiribilla. This scheme was organised by Dr Rebecca Ogden and Dr William Rowlandson. The placements offered cross-cultural engagement and skills exchange, and the students benefited from immersed language practice in context, increased spoken fluency, broadening of cultural horizons, and the development of specific skills including teaching, presenting and translation.
Carla Biondi commented: “Within the first day, [Cuba] had exceeded all my expectations. I suddenly understood what I’d always been told: ‘Cuba has to be seen, it can’t be described’”.
João Martins Pereira said: “As an aspiring teacher, the experience proved to me that it is still possible to learn and teach incredible lessons even if the only resources to hand are passion, dedication, a chalkboard and a slightly outdated textbook. During the placement, we gave presentations on the UK education system, British stereotypes, and even an amusing quiz on the English language and British culture. At the end of the placement, we gave the students some England football team branded wristbands and some keyrings kindly donated by Kent Union. Overall, it was an amazing experience which I would not hesitate to do again if I had the chance.”
Stephen Hockley described the experience as: “…fantastic and so rich. To have been the recipient of an internship that took me across the world and into the suburbs of Havana is always going to be a cool thing. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity.”