Blog posts

Cuban Colleges

Cuban Colleges

CARIBBEAN, CUBA, DESTINATIONS

In Cuba, high school students don’t get to choose their university. To enter university, students must pass an entry examination to show they possess the basic knowledge required.  They take entrance exams and select up to three majors that they would like to study. The government then decides for each student their university and course of study.

My cousin Elizabeth went through the ordeal in Cuba recently of taking her college entrance exam and applying to college in Cuba.  The process and the waiting period caused a great deal of anxiety for both her and her parents.

She was extremely excited when she found out that they picked her first choice of study which was tourism.

In most cases, it’s the first time the kids in Cuba leave home, similar to our kids in the states.  Most Cuban families however often live in houses where large numbers of people share bedrooms and one bathroom.  Our kids are often spoiled by each having their own room and in some cases, their own bathroom.

Having a daughter who is a senior this year, part of the US college process is selecting where you want to go to school.   We spent a good two weeks this year traveling and visiting universities.  My daughter wants to attend in California so our trips were long and logistically complicated.  Part of the campus tours is visiting the dormitory (dorm) rooms.   Most of the freshman dorm rooms in the schools we visited in California had anywhere from single rooms to triples.   Each of the beds come with a desk and plenty of storage space for students to feel like its home.

I had the opportunity in Cuba recently to drop off my cousin Elizabeth at her Cuban university “La Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” De Las Villas”, which is where she will be studying tourism for five years.

 

DSC04737

 

When we arrived and parked to accompany her to her dorm room, I was first struck by the building exterior facade which looked like it hadn’t been painted in 30 years.   She was all dressed up with clothes that I had brought for her, including her bags.  She carried a cooler bag with water bottles and a duffle bag pack with clothes.   She told me that her dorm room did not have a refrigerator.   As we started to walk the three flights of stairs I noticed buckets of left over food left on the sides.   Food that is used to feed pigs on the campus.

 

La Universidad Central "Marta Abreu" De Las Villas
Dormitory of  La Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba
La Universidad Central "Marta Abreu" De Las Villas
Hallways of La Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba
La Universidad Central "Marta Abreu" De Las Villas
The grounds of La Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba

 

In the States, most college dorms that we had seen only accommodate from one to three beds in a dorm room. When we entered Elizabeth’s dorm, I saw seven bunk beds all in a large room, surrounded by lockers and a little table in the center!  It felt more like a summer camp cabin than a university dorm room.  Next to this large room was a smaller room with two sets of bunk beds and lockers on either side.  Between the two bunk beds was a single table for all the four girls to share.  Elizabeth set her things down and showed me her lower bunk bed. The mattress was hard as a rock.

 

Dorms at La Universidad Central "Marta Abreu" De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba
Dorms at La Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba
Dorm Rooms at La Universidad Central "Marta Abreu" De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba
Dorm Rooms at La Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba
Dorm Rooms at La Universidad Central "Marta Abreu" De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba
Dorm Rooms at La Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba

 

After seeing her tiny room, crammed with 2 lofted beds, I was shocked, and completely horrified at the conditions. It was like walking into a dreary, stuffed closet.

In front of her bunk beds was the door to the bathroom.   The bathroom had one shower stall, one toilet and one small sink with no mirror.  I could not imagine one toilet for 14 people?  That’s ridiculous… The floor was filled with buckets of water.  When I asked what the water was for they said it was because they sometimes have no water and they use it to flush the toilet and to bathe.

 

Dorm Room Bathroom at La Universidad Central "Marta Abreu" De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba
Dorm Room Bathroom at La Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba
Dorm Room Bathroom at La Universidad Central "Marta Abreu" De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba
Dorm Room Bathroom at La Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba
Dorm Room Bathroom Shower at La Universidad Central "Marta Abreu" De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba
Dorm Room Bathroom Shower at La Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba

 

Right next to the bathroom door was a hole in the wall with electrical wires all exposed that looked like spaghetti going in all directions.  It a miracle that the place doesn’t burn down because it was definitely a fire hazard , an accident waiting to happen.

 

Dorm Room Electrical Panal at La Universidad Central "Marta Abreu" De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba
Dorm Room Electrical Panal at La Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba

 

As I mother I can see why it’s so hard for Elizabeth’s mom to drop her off at the university under these conditions.  She was used to the comforts of living at home and getting a good home cooked meal daily. University food isn’t very good according to Elizabeth.  Most students who can afford it go off site if possible to buy snacks and meals. For those that can’t, like Elizabeth, she counts the days to the weekend looking forward to taking a bus home and eating a proper meal.

 

Dropping of my cousin  La Universidad Central "Marta Abreu" De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba
Dropping off my cousin at La Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” De Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba

 

Considering it more broadly, Cuba educational system is known to be one of the best national educational systems. The facts of a relatively poor economy and a long-term continuous blockade on trade makes the Cubans’ achievements more impressive. For the past forty years, education has been a top priority for the Cuban government.

The college life for Elizabeth has been a good maturing educational experience for her.  I guess one of the great things about college is that since people attend when they are young and the heart of the experience is the excitement of living on your own and learning at a new level, the relatively harsh living conditions don’t have the same impact that they would on me who is much later in life.

 

About the author

Carmen Edelson is the Founder and Senior Editor of Carmen's Luxury Travel. Carmen has been traveling the world for over a decade. Our travels allows her the opportunity to pursuit her itch to travel to the best luxury destinations, and experience those first class tastes from around the world.

2 Comments

  1. juancarlos casas
    January 6, 2016 at 9:40 am
    Reply

    nicely done Carmen /
    i do find it interesting as well that Cuba’s education system is 100% government subsidized, unlike any or most i know developed country in the world. They also provide 13% ? of their national budget to education which i had read is the most of any developed country as well – not sure though. and while we in the US have over 4,000 universities and colleges, and Cuba has 40 something, they still have one of the highest rate of literacy around, rated #9 in the world compare to US #28 i believe…. yikes / and while their conditions of living are alarming indeed, their education is free compare to what it costs to get an education in this country. even if one goes to a state school is probably around 50k for 4 years or 60k per year for a top school…. which seems all very alarming too… of course the one advantage here is that after one expensive college education one can have greater opportunities in the work force then in Cuba where those jobs are limited and maybe after all that investment in education they are sitting around trying to figure what to do for a living…. of course too kids here today come out with the somewhat inflated expectations that just because they graduated from some great school (not for most i imagine) that they are entitled to have a great position with high pay… but that’s another topic / that’s all for now 🙂 cheers and happy Cuba / a great country with some wonderful people with a great sense of respect and social composition.

    • Carmen
      January 6, 2016 at 10:41 am

      The kids that graduate from Cuban universities are very educated but don’t have the tools to grow in Cuba. Our cousin just graduated after five years of study, and is now a dentist. She works 3 days in a small office that has one dental chair and outdated dental tools. This past week the office was closed because they didn’t have water. She makes $45 dollars a month in Cuba for her profession.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge