FAQ's

1. Do I need to apply for a student visa before I leave the U.S.?

Prior to traveling to Cuba, students will need to submit all paperwork so that the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS) may process an academic visa. Students should contact the CSP to obtain instructions. For more information about the student visa process and its requirements, please click here.

2. Is travel to Cuba legally authorized by the United States government?

To be eligible for travel to Cuba for educational activities under the OFAC regulations and with the University’s sponsorship, undergraduate students must fall into at least one of the following two categories:

• students who are participating in a "structured educational program" in Cuba as part of a course offered for credit by Harvard. This means either (1) a group of students currently enrolled in a Harvard course who travel to Cuba to engage in meetings, attend lectures or performances, conduct interviews, visit museums and archives, or pursue other learning experiences as part of that course; or (2) individual students who are engaged in a research project as part of their Honors Thesis or another Harvard course in which they are currently enrolled or will be enrolled after returning from Cuba; 

• students who enroll in formal courses of instruction at a Cuban academic institution, provided that they are eligible to receive Harvard College credit for those courses (requires formal approval from the Office of International Education [OIE]).

3. How long is the Orientation Program?

There will be a pre-departure meetings in Cambridge in the spring semester and a one-week orientation in Havana administered by DRCLAS at the beginning of the fall semester.

4. What will I be doing as part of Harvard’s orientation?

The pre-departure meeting in Cambridge will consist of pre-trip information and the necessities for traveling and living abroad. The orientation in Havana will include an introduction to the culture, history, politics and literature of Cuba. There are a number of experiential learning visits scheduled as well as time to prepare and discuss strategies for taking full advantage of the opportunities in Cuba. The orientation week will also include a trip to the University of Havana and assistance in course selection.

5. Where will I be living?

All students will stay together in a two-story residential building, which also hosts other foreign students and visitors. Located within walking distance of the university, the residence is centrally located in Vedado and within easy access of transportation to the city center. Each room has a private bathroom, phone, and television. The residence also contains a restaurant and bar and laundry facilities.

6. What support will I have during the semester?

The program will have a full-time resident director. The director acts as a course advisor, logistics coordinator with the University and the Cuban government, and sponsor of activities, including group outings and a special group trip to a specific region of the island. In addition, the director co-teaches the seminar on contemporary Cuba and Cuban-U.S. relations. The resident director is on call 24 hours a day and meets frequently with students.

7. Can I bring my cell phone?

All students on the program will be given a cell phone and a pre-paid credit for emergencies. Cell phones operated by U.S. operators cannot be used in Cuba. Additional cell phone credit can be purchased from CUBACEL. Students may take their own cell phone provided that it is compatible with the American standard (TDMA) - either dual or digital.

8. Will I receive help in registering for my classes?

Yes. The Harvard and University of Havana staff will assist throughout the process of class registration and selection.

9. How many classes should I take?

Harvard requires a minimum of 16 credits of class during the semester abroad. Students should take 4 64-hour courses while in Cuba, or a combination of courses to total 256 course hours total. Please note that one course on Contemporary Cuban Society and Cuban-U.S. Relations is mandatory. Students who do not place out of Spanish will also be required to take a Spanish language course. Please consult the list of courses taken by Harvard students at the University of Havana for more information.

10. What classes can I take?

Study abroad students at the University of Havana usually take classes in the Arts and Letters and History and Philosophy Departments. Due to our relationship with the university, Harvard students in the past have also taken classes in Economics, Psychology, Biology, Communication, and Mathematics. It will be possible to take classes in other departments depending on student interest. 

11. How are classes organized?

Cuban students enter the university in a concentration (carrera) and take all their classes in that concentration with the same group of students. Cuban students generally do not have electives. Study abroad students can pick classes from different majors and different departments.

12. Who at Harvard should I inform about what classes I am taking in Cuba?

When you apply for the program, you will need to turn in a Harvard College Degree Credit for Study out of Residence form with the Office of International Programs listing your proposed courses. If you are planning on taking any courses for concentration credit, this form must be approved by your concentration. When you arrive in Cuba, it is likely some of these courses will change, so you will need to e-mail the OIE and your concentration to get approval for your final list of classes.

13. Will I have time to travel?

Yes, it is possible to visit most parts of Cuba in a weekend, and travel is relatively cheap and convenient. As part of the DRCLAS Program in Cuba, there will be one organized trip to another part of the island and site visits to unique neighborhoods/instutions in Havana.

14. Will I need health insurance?

Students will not be permitted to participate in the program without valid U.S. health insurance. Students will either need to demonstrate that you have health insurance independently or purchase continuing coverage through Harvard, for more information please visit Harvard University Health Services. In addition, as part of the program fee students will get health insurance that is valid to access health services in Cuba.

15. Does financial aid extend to study abroad?

Yes. Harvard will meet the financial needs of students studying abroad for credit. Students receiving financial aid should notify the financial aid office by submitting a study abroad form along with their normal yearly financial aid application.  More information, including the form, can be found at the financial aid website

16. What level of Spanish do I need to participate in the DRCLAS Program in Cuba?

Participants will be required to have six full courses of Spanish language instruction. There will be an interview in Spanish as part of the application process to determine language proficiency.

17. Are there restrictions on what I can take to Cuba, or bring back from Cuba?

Authorized travelers to Cuba may only take with them items authorized for export from the U.S. to Cuba. The regulations currently provide authorization to export personal effects and accompanied baggage. You may not bring back any Cuba-origin goods, with the exception of informational materials, including books, films, CDs, and paintings.

18. How can I pay for products and services in Cuba?

You will be able to exchange foreign currency for Cuban money. It is possible to exchange U.S. dollars, but there is a 13% tax when USD are exchanged to CUC in cuba. The exchange rate for USD exchanged in Cuba is ~1 USD to 1 CUC. We recommend you calculate which currency is more advantageous to bring. Rates for other currencies can be found on the website of the Banco Central de Cuba. U.S. credit cards, ATM cards, and checks cannot be used in Cuba.