by Daisy Villegas
Warning! You may develop serious feelings/ an attachment to Cuba.
It feels like a dream sometimes. I keep meaning to wake up, to understand that it was all too good to be true. I have almost always condoned the common saying that, “Studying abroad changes you.” However, after spending a summer abroad in Cuba, I can safely agree.
It has only been a few weeks since our program’s return, and already I’m planning my way back. I have to go back to the beautiful island where I made remarkable friendships, embraced the hazy heat, marveled at the eroding mansions, rode in clunky macchinas, ate the sweetest plantains, and found comfort in the slow pace of everyday. For me, everything about my experience abroad is still brimmed with an undying shimmer of beauty, a beauty that can only be found in Cuba.
In spite of all that Cuba challenged me to face, such as understanding that I couldn’t always find a running toilet or drinkable water, I still love Cuba for what it allowed me to learn and experience. I am forever grateful, especially for the smaller things. I appreciate Cuba as a space where the long summer mornings stretched into the dull, hot pauses of the day that allowed the girls on my floor and I to stand on the thirteenth floor balcony and memorize the sky, the traffic below, the never ending sprawl of the city, and the friends that gathered outside on calle G. I will always remember Cuba with this fondness.
My longing to go back largely rests on the relationships that I made in Cuba, from the friendships with Northwestern peers that I continue to nurture on campus to those that I made with Cubans in Havana. I will never forget the people that shaped my experience abroad, the people that made my summer more than just study abroad. Being in Cuba felt like going back home—even if it was a place I had never been to before.
I’m going back the first chance that I get.