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Arrival – Shelby Calambokidis

My name is Shelby Calambokidis and I am a sophomore at the University of Alabama. I’m majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Spanish and Business Management.

My goals for Cuba are to become fluent in Spanish and learn as much as I can about Cuban culture and history while I am here. Specifically, I want to explore the art of dance here in Havana and research how different types of dance help define their culture. Because this is such a rare opportunity for an American, I want to use it to my advantage and also explore the Cuban perspective of Cuban/U.S. relations. When we leave in May, I want to feel as if Cuba is a part of my culture and who I am because of the impact it had on my life.

My first impression of Cuba was that they were much more friendly to Americans than I expected. Seeing as U.S./Cuban relations are not great, I thought our group may not be received well by Cuban people and that we would be treated with hostility. But quite the opposite is true and every Cuban I have met thus far has been more than welcoming and very friendly. In addition, I noticed every building was bright and colorful and filled with vibrant music, no matter how beat up or run down it was. I think this symbolizes Havana itself because Cuba may be a third world country and the people may be very poor, but their fascinating culture and energetic personalities outshine that.