Pitt in Cuba

Havana is a city of contradictions: the smell of sea spray mixed with Caribbean food, 50's-era cars sharing the road with Mercedes, gray concrete buildings sharing walls with pastel facades.  Go beyond tourism and spend six weeks living and learning in the capital of Cuba, the only country in the Americas that has had a continous communist government for more than 50 years.  Each day in Cuba brings a new experience, a new opportunity to learn, and new questions to answer.

Designed for students who have taken at least four semesters of college-level Spanish, this program begins with a two-week immersive language course builds upon the Spanish skills that you already have and prepares you to take courses in Cuban history and culture and Cuban film. The program is hosted by the University of Havana, located in the bustling Vedado neighborhood of the city.  With comfortable housing that is a short walk from the University, the Malecon, and dozens of restaurants, you'll be perfectly situated to take advantage of all that Cuba's capital has to offer. 

What You'll Accomplish

As an engaged and active participant in this program, you will have the opportunity to develop:

  • reading, writing, and speaking skills in Spanish, specifically in an academic setting.
  • the ability to adapt and thrive while facing the challenges presented by life in Cuba.
  • a deeper understanding of the role that history and culture play in the development of a nation.

As the cultural, economic, and political capital of Cuba, La Habana is a dynamic city that will never cease to amaze you.  Founded in 1509, it is rich with history of the founding of the New World by Spanish conquistadores and the hope for creating a gleaming civilization.  You will experience Cuban culture through music, food, dancing, baseball, and nightly strolls along the Malecon.  Havana is a popular tourist destination (for non-US citizens, of course) with plenty to take in during your time abroad. While in Havana, you'll stay and study in the Vedado neighborhood which has grown around the University of Havana.  Within walking distance you will find plenty to do, including the Malecon, Hotel President, Hotel Habana Libre, restaurants, and more.
Summer's in Havana are characterized by high temperatures and high humidity that are made tolerable by sea breezes and afternoon thunderstorms.  In recent months, the economic situation in Cuba has deteriorated which has led to scarcity of some food items.  As a visitor to the island, you will likely be unaffected by these changes, but need to be aware of them nonetheless. 

Where You'll Live

El Costillar de Rocinante (also known as the Journalist Hotel, El Hotelito, and many other names) is your home for the program. Located just 10 minutes on foot from La Universidad de Habana and 15 minutes from the Malecón, El Costillar de Rocinante is a comortable and typical Cuban residence.  A large dining room  with a spacious and cool lobby opens onto a wrap-around veranda.  Enjoy the Cuban breeze as you work on school work, relax with friends, or chat with other guests at the hotel. El Costillar is no Hilton but is a safe and comfortable place to stay in Havana. El Costillar de Rocinante is a part of the José Martí Institute for International Journalism and, as such, serves as a residence for journalists and scholars throughout Latin America.  As the only group of Americans at the hotel, you'll have the opportunity to practice your Spanish and meet people from across Latin America.
You can expect the following at the residencia:

  • Double or triple rooms with a shared bathroom
  • Air conditioning (which may be limited during certain hours of the day)
  • Sheets, blankets, towels, and washcloths
  • Breakfast included each day (no kitcen access for students)
  • Pay-per-hour wifi (approximately $1.50 / hour)
  • 10 - 15 minute walk to the University of Havana classrooms
What You'll Study

You'll earn a total of 9 credits on the Pitt in Cuba program, all of which are upper-level Spanish courses that count towards majors and minors.  Everyone who participates on the program will take the same courses, which are taught on the University of Havana campus by faculty from Spanish as a Second Language, Anthropology, and Film. 
The courses on the program are taught entirely in Spanish and you should prepared to use no English in the classroom.  
Information about how the courses on this program count towards general education requirements for different schools and campuses can be found here.

Patrimonio de Cuba (SPAN1417)

Cuba is a country rich in both history and culture.  From the "discovery" of the New World to the Castro government, there is much to learn about this Caribbean country. This course will likely include multiple fieldtrips to different parts of the city that help highlight Cuba's diverse past and present. 

Cuban Cinema (SPAN1421)
Intensive Spanish Language (SPAN1306)

Pitt in Cuba is offered in partnernship with the University of Havana.  While in Cuba, you will be accompanied by a graduate student or faculty member from the University of Pittsburgh who will be your resource for day-to-day support, help with language and culture questions, and a friendly (and English-speaking) face from Pittsburgh.  You'll also have the support of Dr. Anita Sanz, faculty from the University of Havana, and the staff of the residencia.

Your Pitt Study Abroad Contacts

Brice Lynn

Hey there.  I'm Brice and I'm one of the Assistant Directors at Pitt Study Abroad.  I'm a born-and-raised Pittsburgher (and have the accent to prove it).  My own study abroad experience as a Pitt student took me to Granada, Spain.  Between my host family, the food, and all of the embarrassing language mistakes I made, it turned out to be some of the best months of my life. Now, I'm here to help you make your own study abroad experience a reality.  When I'm not in the office, you can usually find me falling out of yoga poses, riding my bike, and ruining all of these physical activities with a plate of pierogi (extra butter and onions, please).  Get in touch with me at bel18@pitt.edu or 412-383-1029.

Your In-Country Contacts

Dr. Anita Sanz

Dr. Anita Sanz is a Professor of Biology at the University of Havana and has been working with Pitt students studying abroad in Cuba since 2008.  As the Pitt contact in Havana, Anita will help you get settled in to your residence and accompany you on most of your excursions.  Anita will also serve as a resource for questions of culture, language, and general life in Cuba!

Items Billed by Pitt

  In-State Out-of-State
Tuition $6,795 $6,995
Program Fee $0 $0
Study Abroad Fee $300 $300
Total Billed by Pitt $7,095 $7,295

Estimated Additional Out-of-Pocket Costs

Meals and Personal Expenses $500 - $1,000
Travel to Pittsburgh Varies

Total Estimated Program Cost

  In-State Out-of-State

Total Estimated Cost of Program
(Includes items billed by Pitt and additional expenses)

$7,595 - $9,595 $7,795 - $9,795


What's Included

As a part of your Pitt in Cuba fee, the following are included in the program:

  • Tuition for 9 credits
  • Housing in a double room
  • Breakfast and dinner at the hotel
  • Airfare from Domestic Departure City to Havana (approximately $800 value)
  • Airport Transfer in Havana
  • City of Havana Tour
  • Culture events and activities

Given the normalization of relations with Cuba, laws and policies regarding payment may change.  For now, Pitt Study Abroad recommends that you plan on taking all funds you might need with you in CASH.  Although the situation is changing, you should plan on not having access to your debit or credit card while in Cuba.

Remember that your lifestyle and spending choices can greatly affect the amount of money you'll need while abroad.  Visit our Budgeting page for more information.

When You'll Go

Traveling to and from Cuba

Because of the limited number of flights to Cuba, and to make it easier for the group, you will be required to travel to Pittsburgh on May 17th, the day before departing for the program.  Pitt Study Abroad will provide a hotel room for the evening and the group will depart early the next morning. 

Visa and US regulations prevent you from traveling in Cuba after your program - you are required to depart with the group from Cuba.  You will be able to return to the city of you choice in the US. 

While in Cuba - Itinerary and Independent Travel

Click here to download an example itinerary for the program.  Keep in mind that the excursions, their lengths, and dates are all subject to change.  

Traveling in Cuba can be both difficult and expensive, so very few students choose to travel independently during the program.  If you do choose to do so, we recommend that you do not make any travel arrangements before arriving in country. 

What Else You Need to Know

It is important that you remember that studying abroad in Cuba is a unique and rewarding experience, but it is not without its challenges. A few things to consider: Internet access is extremely limited in Cuba and many websites accessible from the U.S. (Facebook, Twitter, Gmail) may or may not be accessible while you are abroad. Communication with the United States by phone can be difficult and you cannot send mail between the two countries. Although this seems daunting, it offers you the opportunity to achieve a level of cultural immersion that simply is not possible on a majority of other study abroad programs.