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Arrival – Pavia Gooch

I’m Pavia Gooch and I am a senior at the University of Alabama and I am double majoring in Spanish and International Relations. 

I’ve taken Spanish classes ever since I was in the 9th grade and have loved the language and the culture.  Getting the opportunity to study abroad was always a dream and since my first semester of freshman year I had always planned on spending time in a challenging environment.  I am incredibly lucky that that place ended up being Cuba.

I have four goals for while I am here. The first one is that I would improve my Spanish enough that I could possibly be mistaken for a native speaker.  The second one is that I could build friendships that would last longer than my time here.  The third is that I could understand with more clarity why there is such a strong animosity between our two governments.  The last goal is that I would contribute to Cuban culture in a manner that would improve the general perceptions of Americans.

Upon first arriving in Cuba, the first sensation that I experienced was heat.  The frigid United States could not be more different than this tropical paradise.  However, as we drove further away from the airport, I was struck by the debilitated nature of all the buildings that we passed.  Some were already falling down, some appeared to be on the verge of falling down, and very few seemed to be in perfect condition.  However, all of these buildings were brightly colored and many had carefully tended gardens and vibrant plants outside.  As my time here has continued, this first observation has only served as an echo for the state of the Cuban people.  These people are under a very restrictive government, have few true liberties and struggle to make ends meet in a way comparable to United States standards.  But through all that they go through, they maintain a vibrant and flowering culture and maintain a sense of true nationalism.