International Educator - November/December 2014 - 49

education truly is motivated by altruism, or
Cuban educators want the rest of the world to
think that Cuban higher education is motivated by altruism. Whichever answer you decide
to choose to accept-noting that they are not
mutually exclusive-it is absolutely fascinating
that altruism is part of the discussion for internationalizing higher education in Cuba at all.
That there are clear parallels between altruism
and two of the main ideals of the Cuban revolution of 1959-solidarity and humanism-is
seemingly obvious. The fact that any of these
ideals are alive and well in Cuba today is another essay entirely. Nonetheless, altruism is
central to Cuban educators' discussion on the
internalization of higher education in Cuba.
When was the last time you heard altruism
mentioned in a discussion of motivations for
the internalization of colleges and universities
in the United States? This is not to suggest that
altruism is not an underlying ideal that may
in fact be behind many rationales for interna-

tionalization in the more developed countries
of the West, but perhaps it is easier to suggest
that altruism may have taken a backseat in
these discussions.

Importing
Internationalization
While altruism may underline the motivation of internationalization, Cubans must
also work within their means. Limited student
mobility and lack of resources force them to
look inward. This came to light during our
daily conversations in which the delegation
of Cuban educators hosted breakout sessions
to facilitate discussion on specialized topics.
It did not take long for the group focused on
the internationalization of higher education
to discover an impasse for comparison: very
few Cuban students study abroad, and when
they do, it is predominantly in Latin America.
When the Soviet bloc was thriving,
Cuban students studied abroad more ex-

tensively often in East Germany or the
Soviet Union. But after the collapse of the
Soviet Union, Cuban students lacked the
funding, Cuba lacked the capacity, and the
international climate lacked the inclination
to establish international exchange routes.
As a result, Cuban educational institutions
focused beyond their island-globally, and
in particular, to neighboring countries in
Latin and Central America-to welcome
international students to Cuba.
With personal, institutional, and national
funding restraints along with foundering
cross-national relationships, the clearest path
to cultural exchange for Cuban institutions
relied on the import of international students.
One incentive is evidence of the aforementioned altruism: international students enjoy
the same tuition rates as Cuban students-
their education is state-subsidized and free of
charge. Notably, medical schools have made
a concerted effort to attract international

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