International Educator - November/December 2014 - 50

A VIEW FROM OUT HERE

Community Involvement
Many of the Cuban educators we spoke
to voiced a recurring refrain: 'Everything
we do is for the community. For education
to succeed, the curriculum must be con-

A sense of community is ingrained in the Cuban education system,
in the Cuban mind. By internationalizing the education system,
Cubans are invited to understand the complexities of communities
other than their own. In essence, they embodied the social and
cultural motivations of internationalization.

nected to the needs of the community.' This
became a theme in our ongoing dialogue
about importing internationalization to
their education system. Remembering that
altruism is a key motivator for internation-

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alization, we could not help but wonder how
does the local Cuban community stand to
benefit? For a system so closely tied to community, a tension between local community
needs and international community needs
arises. To investigate this tension, we asked
the Cubans for a checklist for community
involvement, textbooks on community involvement in Cuban education, or examples
of Cuban assessment measures to ensure
community representation in their international education work. All we received
were friendly smiles, examples of community projects, and unwavering support for
international education activities. Smiles only
increased our frustration and led to many
circular conversations during formal roundtables and informal chats. It became clear that
community engagement was not measured
with a checklist when creating an educational
program. A sense of community is ingrained
in the Cuban education system, in the Cuban
mind. By internationalizing the education
system, Cubans are invited to understand
the complexities of communities other than
their own. In essence, they embodied the

THINKSTOCK

students, and if Cubans study abroad, they
are often medical students themselves. To
illustrate medical schools' emphasis on internationalization, you can look no further than
a medical school that hosted our team, Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM).
Outside of Havana, ELAM welcomes visitors
to its campus with a lobby that has the dressings of a multicultural museum. Its walls are
lined with art-gifts from the families of its
graduates: a wooden clock from Nicaragua, a
handmade quilt from Chile, an intricate hammock from Costa Rica.
International students are welcomed to
Cuba with the intent to provide excellent
education, host cultural exchange, and to
export Cuban ideals through students as
individual agents of internationalization.
The modern Cuban definition of internationalization seems to be: if study abroad is
inaccessible for most Cuban students, then
cultural exchange can be achieved by bringing the world to Cuba.


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