By Megan McNaughton
During winter break, I had the privilege of attending an alternative break trip to Cuba. Focusing on the issues of education, healthcare, art, and politics, for eleven days I was able to fully immerse myself in the culture and beauty of this complicated country. Alternative breaks focus on hands-on, community based learning in order to teach students about the issues at hand and raise social awareness. Straying away from voluntourism, the trips focus on learning about relevant social issues in an immersive context without entering the environment with the intention to solve the “problem.” In addition to the fact that there are multiple trips focusing on a variety of social issues (anyone can find a trip they identify with!), here are three reasons to take an AB trip.
Expand Your Worldview
Being immersed in a new environment, you are not only introduced to a new culture and possibly issues not presented in mass media, but you can also truly realize the danger of a single story. Cuba is definitely only presented within the confines of a single story in U.S. media and education. However, by being engaged with the actual culture and history of the country, I have acquired a better sense of the beauty and variety of culture it has to offer — shattering this single story.
Inspire Real Change
Given the goal of the trips is to enter an unfamiliar environment and learn about an issue involving social justice, post trip action is a huge part of the entire experience. Since issues about politics, education, and healthcare are present today in our culture, the information I learned on my trip is not only helpful to finding ways to help the issues in Cuba, but also in my local community. Being immersed in Cuba’s culture has inspired me not only to advocate for change within U.S. and Cuba relations but also to advocate for change within the local education system.
You Might Leave With More Questions Than You Came With
Before taking the trip, having some general knowledge about the culture and issues presented is required through group meetings. It is only natural to arrive with questions. Leaving the trip, you may not have all the answers, and you may even have more questions, but this can continue to inspire more research and desire to be the change you want to see in the world.