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USAC Havana Program

Fast Facts

Sessions Offered:




Havana, Cuba




2.5 GPA, Be in good academic and disciplinary standing

Application Due:

3/4 for summer, 10/1 for winter

Program Cost:

Click the Application tab.

This program is not available for Summer 2021 Session

This program allows students a firsthand look at the multiple layers of history that make Cuba significant in North America and Latin America. The courses offered not only look at the history of the island as a former Spanish colony but also the 20th Century in which Cuba played a significant geopolitical role. The courses and experiences that students have outside the classroom will focus on the history and society of Cuba with attention focused on exploring the fusion of Spanish, African, and indigenous roots plus influence from the United States to create a rich culture of its own. This program is administered by the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), of which the University of Iowa is a member.

Academic Program

The USAC Havana program is offered in the Summer and Winter sessions only. In the summer, there are two, 3-week sessions that can be combined to create a 6-week session plus an optional 1-week tour of Southern Cuba. The winter session is three weeks in duration. For each session, students enroll in at least three and up to four credits. At least one 3-credit course must be taken. Courses focus on Cuban history, society, politics and culture. There is coursework that falls in the Latin American Studies field as well. There is not a language requirement for this program as many classes are offered. Coursework that is in Spanish will list the prerequisites that are necessary for the course.
i. This program offers resident credit.

Program Dates

Winter Session, Late December - mid-January
Summer Session I, early June – early July
Summer Session II, late June - late July

Application Deadlines

March 4 for Summer programs and October 1 for the Winter program

For More Information

Steps to Studying Abroad

  1. Before initiating an application with USAC, students must complete a Discover Study Abroad session at the University of Iowa.
  2. After completing the Discover Abroad session, students must call the Study Abroad office at 319-335-0353 to be assigned to the appropriate study abroad advisor.
  3. Once assigned, students must meet with their study abroad advisor to receive program application instructions.

Study Abroad
1111 University Capitol Centre
Iowa City, IA 52242

Phone: 319-335-0353

The University

Students study at the Instituto de Filosofia de Cuba (The Philosophy Institution of Cuba). It was established in 1968 and is an agency for the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. The institute maintains close ties with the University of Havana and other universities in Europe, the US and Latin America. The headquarters of the institute is located in the Vedado neighborhood, near the University of Havana, a jewel of neoclassical architecture built in the late 1920s.

The City

La Habana is the capital city of Cuba and happens to be its largest city, major port and leading commercial center as well. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants. Contemporary Havana can be described as three cities in one; Old Havana, Vedado and the newer suburban districts. In 1982, the historic center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Country

The island of Cuba is the largest in the Caribbean and with its remarkable history make it significant to both North America and Latin America. In 1942, Christopher Columbus landed in Bariay, a bay in the north east of Cuba and claimed the land for the Kingdom of Spain. Here he met the Taino peoples who were natives to the island. In 1515, the city of San Cristobal de la Habana was founded and later became the capital. Unlike the other plantation islands of the Caribbean, Cuba developed slowly and had a diversified agricultural system. What was most important was that the colony developed as an urbanized society that primarily supported the Spanish colonial empire. Due in part to Cuban slaves working in an urbanized setting there was a common practice of “coartacion” or buying oneself out of slavery, which was uniquely Cuban. Since there was a shortage of white labor, blacks dominated urban industries. In the early 19th century when most of Latin America was fighting for their independence from Spain, Cuba stayed loyal since their economy depended on serving the empire. After the Spanish-American War, Cuba formally gained its independence from the United States in 1902 at which time the US leased Guantanamo Bay naval base from Cuba. There was relative political unrest in Cuba with the United States involving themselves whenever they felt it necessary until 1934 when Bautista became president and he would dominate Cuban politics for the next 25 years. In 1958 Cuba was a well-developed country by Latin American standards and even by some world standards having high consumption rates of meat, vegetable, cereals, telephones and radio. Yet unemployment ran rampant and the middle class was discontented with not being able to find jobs and the political persecution.
On January 1, 1959, Bautista fled the country as Fidel Castro’s July 26th Movement emerged as the leading revolutionary group. Castro legalized the Communist party, expropriated thousands of farmland and in 1960 singed a commercial agreement with the Vice Premier of the USSR. By 1963, Cuba was moving towards a full-fledged Communist system. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Cuba lost upwards of $4 – 6 billion in subsidies and aid, which led to a severe economic downturn, food shortages and fuel shortages. Yet, Cuba found assistance and new trade partners in the People’s Republic of China, Hugo Chavez, the former president of Venezuela and Evo Morales the president of Bolivia. In February of 2008, Fidel Castro resigned as president of Cuba and appointed his brother, Raul, as the new president. Also in 2008, the European Union and Cuba agreed to resume full relations and cooperation activities. In December of 2014, the process of restoring international relations between Cuba and the United States began. An agreement was reached between the two countries to reestablish diplomatic ties and to reopen embassies in their respective capitals, which took place on July 20, 2015.

US Department of State Country Information

The US Department of State provides safety and security information for every country of the world to help you assess for yourself the risks of travel. Each country information page contains a Travel Advisory, Alerts, and other important details specific to that country that could affect you.

Pay close attention to the entry and exit requirements, local laws and customs, health conditions, and other details to help decide whether traveling to any given country is right for you. Non-US citizen travelers may also wish to seek guidance from the embassy of their country of citizenship. The UI International Travel Policy for Students addresses restrictions on student travel to high-risk locations and engagement in high-risk activities abroad.

Living Arrangements

Students live in bed-and-breakfast style apartments run by locals. They are located in the Vedado neighborhood near the University of Havana, which is far less touristy than other parts of Havana. . This style of accommodation is relatively new in Cuba but has exploded in popularity as an economical and more authentic living experience. The touristy part of town, Havana Vieja is only a five-minute taxi ride from Vedado. Students stay in double rooms, and there will be a few students in each apartment. There will be a common living space and kitchen. The property owner of the apartments will provide breakfast daily.

Travel Arrangements

Students arrange for their own transportation to Cuba. Upon arrival in Cuba students move into their housing. There is a mandatory orientation the next day and classes begin right away.

Local Transportation

All housing should be within walking distance to the Instituto de Filosofia de Cuba where students take their classes. While in Cuba students may use the two different bus divisions that Havana has available. The Metro bus serves the inner-city urban area while the Omnibus Metropolitanos connects the adjacent towns and cities in the metropolitan area with the city centre. Reliable taxis are also available.


Students must have a GPA of 2.5 or higher and be in good academic and disciplinary standing at the University of Iowa.

Good academic and disciplinary standing- Students must be in good academic and disciplinary standing at the University of Iowa. It is the policy of the UI Study Abroad office that all students who study abroad must be in both good academic standing and good disciplinary standing. Students who, even after being accepted into a program, are put on either academic and/or disciplinary probation for any period of time overlapping with the study abroad program dates are ineligible to study abroad. In these cases, students must forfeit their acceptance and will not be allowed to study abroad. Any student who must forfeit their acceptance and/or attendance on a study abroad program due to a probationary status is wholly responsible for any and all financial expenses incurred. See the ‘Withdrawal Policy’ below for more information about the related late withdrawal fees.


Students are charged a program Fee on their Ubill. This charge covers the flight from Panama to Cuba, tuition, housing fees, hotel night in Panama City, Panama and pick up from the airport in both Panama City and Havana. In addition to the program fee, students are assessed a University of Iowa Study Abroad Administrative fee, and the Iowa Regents mandatory International CISI insurance. Both of these fees will appear on the Ubill as well. Other costs include application fees, round trip airfare to Panama, passport fees, local transportation, books & supplies, lunch & dinner, and personal expenses.

Financial Aid & Scholarships

Most financial aid (scholarships, grants, and loans) is applicable to study abroad programs. Please check the Study Abroad website for information on financial aid and how it may be applied to studying abroad. You are also encouraged to speak with someone at the Office of Student Fianancial Aid to explore financial aid options. Scholarship Opportunities exist for study abroad participants. Please explore Study Abroad’s websites for UI Study Abroad Scholarship Opportunities, and Non-UI External Awards.

How to Apply

Schedule and meet with Kristine Djerf, the Study Abroad Advisor for Latin America. Appointments can be set up in person in 1111 UCC or by phone at 319-335-0353. After discussing the program and its requirements with the Advisor, the University of Iowa Study Abroad application can be completed. Final Admissions decisions to the program are made by USAC.

Application Deadlines

March 4 for Summer programs and October 1 for the Winter program

Withdrawal Policy

After applying for a Study Abroad Program, notice of withdrawal must be made in writing to your USAC Program Advisor and the University of Iowa Study Abroad Advisor. The date on which the letter or e-mail message is received is the date by which your costs will be calculated. If for any reason you withdraw after the confirmation deadline and before or during the course of the program, the amount/percentage shown in the following chart represents what you will be required to pay.

Date of Withdrawal Student Financial Responsibility
During Early Admissions Period Administrative fee: $0
Course Fee: As determined by the program contract with USAC
After Early Admissions Period, during the Regular or Late Admissions Period (varies by program) Administrative fee: $400
Course Fee: As determined by the program contract with USAC
30 days before Program Start Date Administrative fee: 50%
Course fee: As determined by the program contract with USAC
After Program Start Date Administrative fee: 100%
Course fee: As determined by the program contract with USAC

Consult with your Study Abroad advisor for any clarification about fees and billing. Note that when you withdraw from a program, any money already paid directly to a program provider and/or a host university will potentially be forfeited. Check with your specific provider/host university for details. Additional penalties for cancellation of airline tickets may also apply. Check with your airline for further details.

Students will receive an acceptance email directly from USAC confirming their admission into the Havana program. This email contains information about logging on to each student´s individual USAC Gateway account. Please be sure to check this account regularly, i.e. daily, as important documents about pre-departure, visa assistance, housing and much more are posted there for participants.


All UI students studying aboard are required to take the ICON course, Study Abroad Pre-departure Orientation. During this course, such topics as health & safety, identity, cultural adjustment, and money will be discussed. In person orientation sessions are given by the Study Abroad office. These sessions deal with a variety of subjects such as, “Living with a host family”, “Maximizing language learning while abroad”, “First time solo flyers” and more. An individualized meeting with the Study Abroad Advisor will address specific areas of the program and registration on MyUI, billing, and course approval procedures at Iowa.

Before traveling

Students must complete certain documents and activities before leaving for their study abroad experience and these include:
1. Upload a copy of the information page of their passport to their Study Abroad application.
2. Visit the Office of Student Financial Aid if appropriate.
3. Complete and turn in a copy of their Credit Approval form.
4. Complete the ICON course.
5. Register in MyUI for the appropriate study abroad course.