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**Celebrating a Decade: UMD College of Education’s Cuba Study Abroad Program Marks 10th Anniversary**

Anastasia Lavrenyuk eagerly anticipated her spring break research expedition in Cuba long before commencing her doctoral studies in international education policy at the University of Maryland. Hailing from Russia, she held a deep interest in Cuban-Soviet relations and, with prior residency in Mexico, was keen on further engagements in Latin America.

As a participant in the UMD-led spring break program, celebrating its 10th anniversary, Lavrenyuk joined 15 other graduate students from UMD’s College of Education, School of Public Policy, and the George Washington University. This initiative is an integral component of the course “Embargoed Exchanges: International Investigations in Cuban Education,” engaging over 100 UMD graduate students in the past decade. The program entails interactions with Cuban educators and scholars, school visits, and independent research endeavors.

During her time in Cuba, Lavrenyuk, alongside fellow doctoral student Anna Grigoreva, interviewed six Cuban professors who had pursued studies in the Soviet Union. Beyond the academic pursuits, Lavrenyuk cherished the warm hospitality extended by the Cuban delegation, emphasizing the cultural exchange and camaraderie that enriched their experience.

The Cuba program, now in its 10th year under UMD’s leadership, traces its origins back to 1994 as an academic exchange initiative between U.S. and Cuban education scholars. The evolution of the program into a graduate-level study abroad course was spearheaded by Taylor Woodman, currently an assistant clinical professor at the UMD College of Education, in collaboration with the Asociación de Pedagogos de Cuba (APC).

Despite facing logistical hurdles due to shifting U.S. policies towards Cuba and the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has persevered, offering invaluable opportunities for intellectual exchange and collaboration between Cuban and U.S. educators. The thematic focus of the 2024 Cuba visit encompassed key areas such as race, gender, and sexuality in education, values education, teacher training, higher education, and education policy concerning socioemotional learning.

Participants engaged with university officials, educators, and policymakers, visited various educational institutions, and delved into research ethics and issues of power dynamics in global educational settings. The transformative impact of the Cuba program resonates long after the visit, influencing participants’ academic pursuits, career trajectories, and perspectives on international education and policy.