I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been able to participate in such a stimulating experience of traveling the world aboard the S.S. Universe Explorer during my semester abroad. Through Semester at Sea, I was able to visit almost every continent on this planet, from Asia to Africa to South America, while the very last country I visited allowed me to see a culture and society that only a small number of my fellow U.S. citizens have embraced. .
We woke to find ourselves docked in the heart of Old Havana, Cuba, where gorgeous colonial architecture stretches as far as the eye could see and at a first glance, you could almost be transported back 300 years. Between walking around the city, attending a Cuban baseball game, visiting the University of Havana and several fortresses such as Castillo de la Fuerza and Catillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, my first two days in Havana were quite busy. I planned on relaxing on one the beautiful beaches on the white sand overlooking the crystal clear water of the Caribbean during my last day in Cuba, however I gladly replaced it with the experience of a lifetime. .
The dean of our program, Lloyd Lewan, befriended Cuban President, Fidel Castro, six years prior. Lloyd Lewan was able to organize several buses to carry approximately 600 Semester at Sea students, 50 professors and an additional 200 or so college students from the University of Havana to the Cuban Parliament to meet Fidel and hear him speak. Although I had to share headphones able to translate his Spanish to my comprehendible English with a fellow student due to the vast turnout of students and professors desperate to even catch a glimpse of this notorious leader, I was able to grasp his every word. .
During his speech, Castro lived up to his reputation of a long-speech-giver. In nearly five hours, he answered only three questions, while bringing in topics such as education, social reform and US-Cuban relations.