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First CMU student likely to study in Cuba this summer


This summer, Isabella Barricklow will potentially be the first Central Michigan University student to study abroad in Cuba.

The Ann Arbor sophomore has been conditionally accepted by Academic Programs International and will spend a month at the University of Havana if accepted by the university. She said she is not sure when she will find out about her final acceptance, but was told students are rarely rejected by the university if they’re accepted through API.

Recently, travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba have relaxed, and the Obama administration is working to continue decreasing these restrictions.

Faculty and staff visited Cuba earlier in the year of 2015 to look at study abroad options for students through Academic Programs International.

Other students besides Barricklow have also expressed interest in studying in Cuba next year, said Spanish professor Krzysztof Kulawik.

Barricklow has traveled to several other Spanish-speaking countries. Her mom is a Spanish teacher at the high school she attended, so she has had the opportunity to visit Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica.

“I always knew Cuba was the one place that was off limits. I’m passionate about Spanish, so going to a place like Cuba, I feel like the culture there would be very pure and untouched by American influence,” she said. “I want to see a place that’s completely pure and be immersed in the culture.”

Though she’s excited to potentially travel to Cuba, Barricklow said she’s been given cautionary advice as well.

“People have set me up for a lot of different things,” she said. “Overall, I’m thinking it’s not going to be like any of the countries I’ve been to.”

If accepted, Barricklow will be taking a Spanish class in Cuba.

She said even though she enjoyed traveling to Mexico, she didn’t recognize her love for the Spanish language until her trip to Costa Rica, where she met a man who only spoke Spanish and was able to converse with him about his life there.

Now, she looks forward to speaking Spanish on a regular basis this summer.

“It’s not as much the language as the culture. The language opens that up for you, so once you do learn (Spanish) you learn a lot about the life behind it and the people behind it,” she said.

Barricklow said she was surprised that applying to study in Cuba was pretty comparable to applying for other study abroad programs — she wrote an essay and submitted her transcripts, a teacher recommendation and her disciplinary record.

She has an interest in Cuba and has done some research on her own, but she thinks learning about a culture and experiencing it are two different things.

“I think it’s going to completely change the way I think about my life, my education, what I want to do in the future,” she said.

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