Day 09

Classes commenced as usual.

In the ICEM class “Actualidades de Alemania” our fellow ISSEM Coordinator Vanessa Schmidt held a talk, about the current refugee situation in Germany. The debate was quite heated, as the alumni had several questions and opinons about the matter.

In the evening the ISSEM hosted a german culture night at the bar fresca y chocolate. Here a german movie was screened, and board games could also played. Live music performances could also be enjoyed. This was a mixed ISSEM and ICEM event.


Students playing chess

Alumni listening to the live music performance!

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Day 08

The second week of the summer school, brings with it some new courses. Such as Accounting, Design Thinking and Marketing. 

The design thinking team busy at work, preparing for the next class.

In the evening students where given the opportunity to use the reserved rooms in the Havana Libre Hotel to have some guided study time. In this period students where able to go over any material that they did not understand, and to review the things that they did last week.

There was also a Cuban spanish class which was taught by a fellow alumni.

Day 6 and 7

THE WEEKEND IS HERE!!!!!!

So since it is the weekend, students have some free time to travel and explore Havana. 

So what where the students upto?

On Saturday there was a trip to the los Jardines de Hershey. Yes, by Hershey we mean Chocolate Hershey. This trip was organised by ISSEM and students and alumni could take part in excursion.

Also on Saturday some students headed out to the Playa del Este. The ride to the beach is about 20 minutes by taxi and students carpooled together. After, some tanning and sipping on agua de coco Cuban students showed us what Havana’s hip night life is all about.

On Sunday, Cuban and German students all went to the beach again and had a nice chill beach day. 

In the evening the ISSEM office team had a wonderful dinner together.

Other students, also used the weekend to travel to towns nearby to Havana . For example Viñales, this is a small town located two hours away from Havana. It is known for its tobacco and cocoa plantations. The panoramic valley scene of the town,  resembles a person lying on his/her back. 

Day 4 and Day 5

Day 4

Classes have now been transferred to the hotel Habana Libre. The transition was smooth, and if students are still not sure where their classes are, check the  notice board at the first floor outside the ISSEM office at the Habana Libre. In general, the notice board is full of useful tips and suggestions and information. Students can also pin up their own recommendations and communicate through the board. 

In the evening students could participate in a movie night. The movie Strawberry and Chocolate( Fresca y Chocolate) was screened which is a film based on the short story by Senel Paz who also wrote the screenplay for the movie. The movie is set in Havana, and deals with different social phenomena.  After that students headed on out to the Malecon for a drink, and to enjoy the vast night life that Havana has to offer.

DAY 5

At 8:00 am a group of students headed out for a bike tour through Havana. I personally perticipated in this tour and i can only recommend it. It is a great way to get to know the city. You can also learn a lot about Havana. Our guide Yasser made the tour very enjoyable and taught us a lot about the city. The tour started with a ride through the lush and green Havana forrest, we then went to the 3rd biggest cemetry in the world that is based in Havana. From there we meandered through the colorful neighbourhoods of the old town, and lastly we biked down the Malecon. 

I will write a detailed piece about the bike tour soon. I can,however, only urge anyone that gets the opportunity, to take part in the bike tour. 

Our guide Yasser giving us some knowledge about the forrest of Havana.

The bike crew at the Plaza de la Revolucion.

In the evening there was a culture exchange, at Erich’s house. Erich is a German expatriate  that has lived in Cuba for the last 20 years, he is a Cuba expert in his own right. Students asked questions and talked to him in the comfort of his home. 

For now the ISSEM week has been going very well. It is Friday, and the music is blaring out of the lightly lit bars of Vedado. The streets are full of people that are dressed up, and ready to dance into the weekend. So lets see what this weekend holds for us…

Day 3- Salsa

Salsa! Yes the day had come for us to learn the “1-2-3.. 5-6-7… repeat,”. After a long day full of classes, learning some new moves seemed like the best way to let off some steam.

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After that we were all warmed up to spend some time listening to music and chatting at the Maine.

This time there was more of a blend of groups, Cuban and German students got more into conversation, and it was a nice breezy atmosphere at the Malecon.

Morning tunes in Havana 

In the morning the cars zoom through the streets, and cough up a dark cloud of smoke into the air. Like a heavy smoker with a good morning cough, life goes on and the colorful aged cars continue to wheeze in the streets, collecting school children in uniform, with slick gel backed hair.

In a park under the tree a group of people join in on a communal activity, more like a meditation to open their minds to a world beyond Cuba that is projected through a third external eye. 

The old strech themselves and greet the day with some Tai Chi, balancing out the Ying and Yang of the city. 

Amongst these daily scenes university students with name tags walk around their neck. We have casa’s here and families that take care of us. It may not be a family in the traditional sense as we pay them, but nonetheless we are living together. It is a little like a WG I suppose.

We have classes that we attend, and we have a routine now. I think that it is not such a bad thing that we had classses in the economic faculty,  as it gave us an insight into what daily lectures look like for Cuban students. Yes, it was very warm, however it was not only hot for some of us but for all of us. 

In 2 weeks one half will leave, and the other half will stay and go on with their daily life here in Cuba. However, i think that maybe we should not segregate ourselves during the course of the summer school, because we have so much in common, for one we are all summer school participants. Secondly, we all attend classes together. 

Therefore, maybe we should look beyond stereotypes that make us different and instead start to learn from our similarities. Think about what you want to to take personally with you once you are back home? What do you want to remember? The rusted taxis that practised price discrimination? The mistrust that everybody is after your money? That everybody wants to sleep with you? That everybody flirted with you? 

Or you can choose to to focus on the things that reminded you that there are places and people that have fears, dreams and rich histories just like you. That try to find a sense of fulfilment just like you? How they go about finding it could be different but it could also be inspiring.

The choice is up to you on what you choose to focus on.

Day 2- Daily update

Today the summer school was in full swing. Students bustled into classroms at the economic faculty of the University of Havana to attend their courses. 

The courses International Economic Integration** and Panel Data Econometrics also started today. Some classes were filled up and therefore it was quiet hot, however, there is no need to worry as of Wednesday the classes will be held in the cool new rooms of the Habana Libre. 

There was also a bike tour today. For those of you that missed to register for it, no worries you can always register for the second tour that will take place on friday. 

Today was also the official welcoming party for the alumni. I can only recommend students to come into contact with the alumni; they speak very good german and are always happy to share stories, talk and give tips. There are daily alumni functions taking place that students can also participate in. It is really worth it! There is a lot that can be learned from the older generation.

** For those of you who are very interested in the topics discussed. Check out Prof. Burda’s Youtube channel, where the complete course is available in English. 

Day 1 – Daily Update

​At 9am today, students, professors and alumni all gathered in the beautiful Aula Magna in the main building of the University of Havana, to officially open the ISSEM 2016. 

It was a very exciting morning as Cuban and German students and professors walked up the historic stairs of the University of Havana, to officially start off the 2 weeks of the 14th summer school. There was a great amount of chatter and most students had already sweated through their formal attire even before the opening ceremony had commenced. 

The event was opened by Prof. Michael Burda from Humboldt University who gave a opening speech, followed by a official welcoming by the dean of the faculty of economics of the University  of Havana Prof. Dr Silvia Odriozola. “The summer school is not just about studying, there is a great amount of social activities as well that should be utilised as they give German and Cuban students an opportunity to share cultures and socialise and make lasting friendships” said Prof.Dr. Odriozola. 

Her speech was then followed by a very moving accustic guitar performance. Then the traditional participants’ photograph that was taken on the steps of the university and the summer school officially kicked off. Classes were held in the economic faculty. 

19:30– With the day coming to a close, students and professors all met at the entrance of the main building, and then headed on to the Malcon to toast, and drink to the beginning of the summer school.

Sunday- daily update DAY 00

​The summer school has not yet officially started, however, the first alumni and students were already early and ready to register for the courses. The ISSEM organisation  team was already prepared to welcome this year’s participants. 

New and old faces came together, kisses were flying in the air and smiles were exchanged. Stories from the past were reheated, and current affairs were discussed as well. The alumni in particular were very open to share and tell us what they had been up to. It felt like all these people were eager to be a part of something that they had been a part of before- in another time and place. 

Cold Feet

Bags are all packed, finally. and it all fit in!

I have had nightmares about packing for the last few days. I am just glad that it is over now!

So tomorrow at 12 i leave for Cuba, i am excited. A few days back i had cold feet about the whole thing. I mean yes at first you get the acceptance letter then you book your flight and get even more excited. However, the closer the date comes the more it starts to sink in. I am going to Cuba. I am going to Cuba. I-AM-GOING-TO-CUBA!!! suddenly i am no longer excited but scared, what if this happens? what if that happens etc etc. I went out to a cafe yesterday and sat myself down to have a small moment of peace. A woman was sitting beside me and was really digging into her sandwich. She had her laptop wide open and did not take her eyes off her screen.She was just reaching for a tomato on her sandwich, when i started talking to her. I dont know, there was something sympathetic about her, maybe the way she ate her sandwich, reminded me of myself.

I told her that i was starting to have cold feet,  going to Cuba and that i didnt really speak spanish…etc etc. She then went on to tell me that she moved to Berlin 2 weeks ago from Italy and that she does not speak a word of german. She told me that she was excited at first too, and that as the days dawned closer she was starting to get cold feet as well. She even recalled another similar incidence. So, what i am trying to say is that it is totally normal. Its ok to get cold feet, and there is no point in trying to act cool about it ( no pun intended).

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However, we are all going to Cuba as a group, and the ISSEM team is  also always there to support you. So there is nothing to be worried about. This will be a great experience! Dont stress about it all, even if you do not get to see everything on this trip. Be happy, because that means that you will have a reason to return sometime in the future to Cuba, and see the bits that you didnt see this time. 

So, see you all soon and till then have a safe trip and enjoy this experience and adventure!

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