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Administrators at Duke University say they are exploring the possibility of hosting a study abroad program in Cuba, even though travel for American citizens to the communist state remains illegal.
“We are definitely interested in the region and want to have offerings for our students there,” Margaret Riley, Director of the Global Education Office for Undergraduates, told Campus Reform.
If the Cuba venture materializes, Duke would partner with Brown University, which launched a similar program late last year.
In 2011, the United States government loosened travel restrictions to Cuba for individuals visiting the country for educational purposes. Independent travel for tourism or business purposes is still illegal.
Riley would not say what the potential study abroad program in Cuba would look like.
“At this point I don’t want to go into those kind of details,” she said. “[U]ntil the program evolves and what it has to offer, I’m not going to say what they have to gain from it.”
The U.S. Department of State also cautions individuals of multiple safety concerns and warns individuals to remain vigilant while in Cuba.
“U.S. visitors should also beware of Cuban “jineteros” (hustlers) who specialize in swindling tourists,” their website says. “[M]any are in fact professional criminals who may resort to violence in their efforts to acquire tourists’ money and other valuables.”
Riley said she was unsure what specific precautionary measures would be taken to ensure the safety of students studying on the island but said Duke “will address those [concerns] in the most comprehensive nature as possible.”
Taylor Imperiale, president of the Duke College Republicans, expressed concern amidst his excitement for the program.
“Saying you are one of the first students to go to Cuba in decades would be incredible,” Imperiale told Campus Reform on Thursday.
“I am, however, concerned about the politics of the island as well as the human rights abuses and complete lack of freedom for the Cuban people,” he added.
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