The world is the limit – or should be – when it comes to opportunities to explore other cultures, learn a foreign language, and expand global understanding. But since the Bush Administration placed harsh regulations on academic travel to Cuba in 2004, study abroad to the island nation has declined so precipitously that it hardly exists anymore.
In fact, according to the most recent data available from the Institute for International Education, only about 200 American college students studied in Cuba during the 2006-2007 academic year. Ten times that many studied there only three years earlier.
With a new school year just around the corner, eighteen diverse organizations have come together to send a letter to President Obama today, asking him to build on the important steps he took earlier this year to renew U.S. relations with Cuba by lifting restrictions on academic travel. These programs are enormously important, and their benefits reach well beyond what students learn in the classroom. When our students venture beyond our borders to study, they have the potential to be some of our most powerful ambassadors. And what they experience abroad supports, in countless ways, the president’s efforts to reach out to the world and bring us together as an international community.
NAFSA is the professional association of 10,000 international educators. Because of this, our focus is on supporting academic travel to Cuba. But we also believe that freedom of travel to Cuba for all purposes is vital to renewing relations between our countries, and we are proud to join with Orbitz and many other organizations in the Opencuba.org campaign. We hope you’ll join us.