Absolutely Amazing: Video Transcript

Jayne Orleans [junior major in International Studies; Latin American Studies; Spanish, Class of 2019]: I have always wanted to go to Cuba just because of the politics surrounding it. I've always had an interest in that. Also, it's Cuba. No one has been there in the past, like 50 years, so I was really, really excited to try and get into that.

A lot of the trip was based on talking to locals and really understanding their experiences as Cubans, and so I think I remember one of the very first things we did was we went to this kind of co-op, this big — it was basically a community farm that these people had built starting in the 90s after Russia pulled their support from Cuba, after the Soviet Union collapsed and became Russia, and Cuba didn't really have any supplies left. All of these communities had to start growing their own food, and so we met with probably 100 people that work on this farm, and we met the woman whose father started it and got to see all the beautiful plants, and the ways that they're doing sustainable agriculture and learning about how forward-thinking this tiny country is, and we barely know anything about it. Like, I never would have guessed that Cuba leads in sustainable agriculture, no one really knows that. But it was amazing. Amazing people.

We went to the University of Havana, and basically our professors — it was Melanie and Juan Carlos Albarrán, and they look at us and they go, "You have two hours — we want you to talk to at least three university students." And we were all horrified. We were like ,"What? Wait. What is going on?" There was no one around. How were we supposed to find university students? It was during their exams too, so we felt a little bit bad, but I ended up running into — me and my friends ran into these two guys that were history majors in the University of Havana, and they ended up taking us all over their campus and showing us where Fidel Castro like would eat lunch or organize meetings or whatever. And so Havana was amazing, and that was just one place, and then the rest of it — we went out to small towns, like Cienfuegos, we went to the Bay of Pigs — we got to swim in the Bay of Pigs, which was — I was freaking out, 'cause I'm a huge history nerd, and I was like, "This is it, guys — we're in the Bay of Pigs!" Like, I didn't see any pigs, but, you know, you can only ask for so much!

But it was absolutely amazing, and I want to go back so badly, but then again I kinda want to keep that in my memory, I want to keep that time of what I saw of Cuba like that.

I went to the Middle East. I went to Oman and the United Arab Emirates for the Arab Gulf Economies in Social Transition program, which was absolutely amazing. And even though Oman and the UAE don't have the kind of strife going on in regions like Syria and Afghanistan and the like, even though they don't have that kind of struggle and strife going on, the fact that oil is running out could lead to that, and so really the trip was about how we're running out of oil, and how the Middle East, especially countries that are reliant on oil like Oman and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, how they're really going to need to start diversifying their economy and really start looking toward globalization as a means to boost their economy and diversify it and stuff like that, and how oil isn't something we can bank on anymore.

Oman was probably the most beautiful country that I've ever been to. We got out to the desert and the natural areas and got to ride camels and stuff — it was so beautiful. It was nothing that I would have expected. I mean, it was kind of exactly what you would expect — you're in the desert, but you're not ready for it. You're not ready to see like the amazing power of nature, because it's right there in front of your eyes.

My friend and I pulled our mattresses outside and slept under the stars when we were camping out in the desert. In the middle of the night, I think that some kind of animal, there was definitely a scorpion crawling around us because we saw the tracks, but some kind of animal came up near my head in the middle of the night and screamed, and I stood, I bolted straight up and I yelled as loud as a I could, and I woke up the entire camp. I was like, "I'm sorry guys, like I almost got eaten by something, I don't know what it was, it was probably just a bug."

I had no idea that I would get so many opportunities to study abroad, and I just, I don't want to stop. I've caught the bug, and whether it’s study abroad through Miami or just traveling in general, it's so important.

[March 2018]