Cuban Locals Told Me Why So Many Are Trying To Leave

Cuba Wasn't What I expected at all, It Was Better

I studied in Cuba for 27 days and if it weren't for locals being so open about their truths, I'm not sure my trip would have been as insightful as it turned out to be.

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When I chose Cuba as my first study abroad trip with the University of Texas at Austin, I imagined it was going to be filled with a road trip or two to infamous beaches, visiting monuments, talking to the locals, and eating the local cuisine but that's all.

I was naive to think I was going to be living strictly as a tourist rather than a student who was there to be immersed into the Cuban culture.

My 27 days in Cuba were fast paced but loaded with more experiences than anyone who hopped off of the Norwegian Sun at Havana Vieja(Old Havana) every couple of days. Not because I was constantly traveling to and from museums learning about various parts of the Cuban's history every day, but because my classmates and I had to interact with the locals whenever we wanted to go out on our own.

We were driven to the best nightclubs, told about the best beaches, and where to go for cheap shots and Wifi. However, those moments were only a superficial part of what living in Cuba was like. A week before I left for Camaguey and Santiago, the truths were beginning to show themselves.

The truth about Afro-Cubans being seen as less than Cuban because their skin color and hair texture didn't match that of their European descended counterparts.

So much in fact that Afro-Cubans were commonly represented in the marketing world as black dolls with giant bright red lips and other stereotypical features proudly sold to ignorant tourists.

The truth concerning why most Cubans haven't been able to travel outside of the country, not because of a lack of money, but rather the government denying them a passport in fears they won't return to Cuba.

This has also happened to many activists found to be a "person of interest" and kept on the island which has been commonly referred to as a "prison."

The truth about locals being prohibited from entering the same hotels and restaurants that tourists were eagerly invited into even though their money was just as good as ours.

There's still this strong idea being passed among the Cuban people that America is the best and is still the land of opportunity, even with the current administration.

Many men called out to my friends and I saying "I love America," or "I love you, I love you, I love you," because we were Americans. They didn't seem to care that a lot of the hardships they faced with water and food shortages or how they were mistreated when they were around us was because of where we came from.

A friend of mine even said that a Cuban man told her that if she were to slap him, it would be him who would be in trouble. Whether it was an exaggeration or not, it feels inappropriate to be welcomed into another country where its own citizens hold you above themselves even when you've caused a lot of their heartache.

Yet, throughout my entire stay in Cuba a lot of people told me "mi casa es tu casa," and I didn't question it for a second because my experiences had always been genuine.

There was never anyone who wasn't willing to spare some time to walk me to a store I needed to find or talk to me about their personal life and that's something I felt guilty for because although it wasn't actually me upholding this U.S.-Cuba trade embargo, I am an American.

Cuba was a chance of a lifetime and I'm glad I went even when it turned out to be less of what I imagined and instead, something with more depth. The locals told my group and me what we needed to hear rather than what we planned on hearing and that right there is worth a million bucks.

Cover Image Credit:

Callie Blake

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I Am A College Student, And I Think Free Tuition Is Unfair To Everyone Who's Already Paid For It

Stop expecting others to pay for you.

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I attend Fordham University, a private university in the Bronx.

I commute to school because I can't afford to take out more loans than I already do.

Granted, I've received scholarships because of my grades, but they don't cover my whole tuition. I am nineteen years old and I have already amassed the debt of a 40-year-old. I work part-time and the money I make covers the bills I have to pay. I come from a middle-class family, but my dad can't afford to pay off my college loans.

I'm not complaining because I want my dad to pay my loans off for me; rather I am complaining because while my dad can't pay my loans off (which, believe me, he wants too), he's about to start paying off someone else's.

During the election, Bernie frequently advocated for free college.

Now, if he knew enough about economics he would know it simply isn't feasible. Luckily for him, he is seeing his plan enacted by Cuomo in NY. Cuomo has just announced that in NY, state public college will be free.

Before we go any further, it's important to understand what 'free' means.

Nothing is free; every single government program is paid for by the taxpayers. If you don't make enough to have to pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. If you live off welfare and don't pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. When someone offers someone something free, it's easy to take it, like it, and advocate for it, simply because you are not the one paying for it.

Cuomo's free college plan will cost $163,000,000 in the first year (Did that take your breath away too?). Now, in order to pay for this, NY state will increase their spending on higher education to cover these costs. Putting two and two together, if the state decides to raise their budget, they need money. If they need money they look to the taxpayers. The taxpayers are now forced to foot the bill for this program.

I think education is extremely important and useful.

However, my feelings on the importance of education does not mean that I think it should be free. Is college expensive? Yes -- but more so for private universities. Public universities like SUNY Cortland cost around $6,470 per year for in-state residents. That is still significantly less than one of my loans for one semester.

I've been told that maybe I shouldn't have picked a private university, but like I said, I believe education is important. I want to take advantage of the education this country offers, and so I am going to choose the best university I could, which is how I ended up at Fordham. I am not knocking public universities, they are fine institutions, they are just not for me.

My problems with this new legislation lie in the following: Nowhere are there any provisions that force the student receiving aid to have a part-time job.

I work part-time, my sister works part-time, and plenty of my friends work part-time. Working and going to school is stressful, but I do it because I need money. I need money to pay my loans off and buy my textbooks, among other things. The reason I need money is because my parents can't afford to pay off my loans and textbooks as well as both of my sisters'. There is absolutely no reason why every student who will be receiving aid is not forced to have a part-time job, whether it be working in the school library or waitressing.

We are setting up these young adults up for failure, allowing them to think someone else will always be there to foot their bills. It's ridiculous. What bothers me the most, though, is that my dad has to pay for this. Not only my dad, but plenty of senior citizens who don't even have kids, among everyone else.

The cost of living is only going up, yet paychecks rarely do the same. Further taxation is not a solution. The point of free college is to help young adults join the workforce and better our economy; however, people my parents' age are also needed to help better our economy. How are they supposed to do so when they can't spend their money because they are too busy paying taxes?

Free college is not free, the same way free healthcare isn't free.

There is only so much more the taxpayers can take. So to all the students about to get free college: get a part-time job, take personal responsibility, and take out a loan — just like the rest of us do. The world isn't going to coddle you much longer, so start acting like an adult.

Cover Image Credit: https://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/free-college-new-york-state.jpg?quality=85

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A Little Skepticism Goes A Long Way

Be informed citizens and verify what you see and hear.

rahma
rahma
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These days more than ever before we are being bombarded constantly by a lot of news and information, a considerable amount of which is inaccurate. Sometimes there's an agenda behind it to mislead people and other times its just rumors or distortion of the facts. So, how do you sift through all this and get accurate information? How can you avoid being misled or brainwashed?

This is an important topic because the decisions each of us make can affect others. And if you are a responsible citizen your decisions can affect large numbers of people, hopefully positively, but negatively as well.

It's been said that common sense is not something that can be taught, but I am going to disagree. I think with the right training, teaching the fundamentals behind common sense can get people to have a better sense of what it is and start practicing it. All you will need is to improve your general knowledge and gain some experience, college is a good place for that, then add a little skepticism and you are on your way to start making sensible decisions.

One of the fundamental things to remember is not to believe a statement at face value, you must first verify. Even if you believe it's from a trusted source, they may have gotten their info from a questionable one. There's a saying that journalists like to use: "if your mother said, 'I love you' you should verify it.'" While this is taking it a bit too far, you get the idea.

If you feel that something is not adding up, or doesn't make sense then you are probably right. This is all the more reason to check something out further. In the past, if someone showed a picture or video of something that was sufficient proof. But nowadays with so many videos and picture editing software, it would have to go through more verification to prove its authenticity. That's not the case with everything but that's something that often needs to be done.

One way of checking if something sounds fishy is to look at all the parties involved and what do they have to gain and lose. This sometimes is easier to use when you're dealing with a politics-related issue, but it can work for other things where more than one person/group is involved. For example, most people and countries as well will not do something that is self-destructive, so if one party is accusing the other of doing something self-destructive or disadvantageous then it's likely that there is something inaccurate about the account. Perhaps the accusing party is setting the other one up or trying to gain some praise they don't deserve.

A lot of times all it takes is a little skepticism and some digging to get to the truth. So please don't be that one which retweets rumors or helps spread misinformation. Verify before you report it.

rahma
rahma

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