Cuba’s history is a mixture of turmoil, tragedy, and triumphs. Envoys has designed this program for students to delve into the past and present of the island, applying theoretical frameworks to development and politics to analyze what they see occurring around them. Discovering what it means to live in a centralized economy, as well as one cut off from the engine of the world’s financial system, presents a tremendous challenge for participants, as well as a truly unique opportunity to develop fact-based perspectives on the world around them.
[Envoys] knows kids extremely well…they know how to be cool with them while still commanding authority and establishing ground rules…I was incredibly impressed with the protocols established and put in place by Envoys.Micah M., Traveling Faculty Friends Seminary Peru 2015
With its emphasis on empathy and general intelligence in planning, Envoys has quickly emerged as a premier global program provider. They are well worth the attention of any of our schools.Paul Miller Former Director of Global Initiatives,NAIS
Envoys was at the top of their game from start to finish. What initially interested me was their focus on curriculum during pre-departure meetings and the program itself. Envoys cares deeply about the experience of the participants and faculty. [They] constantly ask for constructive criticism and make changes when necessary.Joe Vogel, Executive Director Global Education Benchmark Group
Envoys carefully constructed an educational trip for students that purposefully engaged them to think, reflect, act, and enjoy. The travel logistics were always well-planned, and I had peace of mind knowing that my teen-aged daughter was in safe, responsible, and caring handsAlice T, Parent Deerfield South Korea, 2015
I could not have been more satisfied with the performance of Envoys throughout the entire process of planning and executing this trip. All Envoys staff demonstrated the utmost professionalism and dedication, as well as knowledge and competence. I am so glad that [we] chose to partner with Envoys!Rick S, Traveling Faculty Hingham Japan 2015
The team at Envoys did their very best to ensure that the the “i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed.” The staff was also quick to respond to any and all questions that arose prior, during and after the trip. My husband and I greatly appreciated the time Envoys took to provide preparation tips as well the planned activity schedules to help make our child’s South African trip a safe and memorable adventure”Regina J, Parent Dalton South Africa 2014
We had an amazing program. It was a biology teacher’s dream and Felipe and his crew couldn’t have been more thorough and professional to work with. Thanks for all of your efforts to organize an unforgettable experience for us all.Gerry, Traveling Faculty LCC Colombia, 2016
As a parent I felt the experience was well orchestrated and managed by Envoys. As a participant my daughter loved the whole experience; it is something she will treasure for the rest of her lifeLinda T, Parent Hingham Japan 2015
I don’t think it is possible to pull a trip like the Amazon and the many activities that you directed without the sense of purpose you have, without your drive for experiential learning for teenagers. All our experiences with the envoys team were amazing!Angela, Traveling Faculty RoundSquare Colombia 2015
It was not only the good times with our friends or the relationships we built but how we were after we came back, returning to this agitated society with a new view of ourselves and not just our impact on the world, but the world’s impact on us.Gabriela, Student Deerfield Colombia, 2014
The individuals we worked with, without exception, were all professional, courteous, patient, and greatly attentive to detail. As stated above, Envoys is flexible and works hard to make sure that if you have custom aspects to a trip that you want to add, they will work hard to make it happen for you.Adam H, Faculty Belmont Hill Japan 2016
I can honestly say that this was the best 10 days of my entire life. I feel as though I have grown as a person, and that I have made lifelong connections. This experience changed my life, so thank you very much to the entire Envoys staff!
Eliza C, Student Hingham Japan 2015
Every single person working for Envoys is excellent and committed to the kids and their experience, not just during the trip, but before and after. We would recommend Envoys to anyone looking for a high quality and enriching summer experience.Amy G, Parent Envoys Malawi 2014 & 2015
The Envoys staff has been amazing. I have bonded with each of them in different ways and they made the trip to Colombia nicer that I expected. Envoys helped me open myself up to interacting with the locals wherever we traveled!Illeana G, Student Deerfield Colombia 2014
My goals were to learn about post-conflict Colombia and step out of my comfort zone. These were fulfilled each and every day through activities, reflections, and first-hand experience.Julia D, Student GEBG Colombia 2016
I was incredibly impressed by the care taken by Envoys. Before we even hit the ground, there was an emphasis on comprehending impact on our destination’s environment that I appreciated..Throughout the trip, our Envoys leaders made sure that we continued to be conscious of impact. That awareness of cause and effect is something that often gets lost when traveling, and Envoys did not allow it to. During this trip, there was never a moment I did not feel safe and cared for nor a moment where I did not feel I was learning something!Keylee S, Student Dalton South Africa 2014
“Many student groups participate in ‘Voluntourism’. This trip did not attempt that, but rather funneled the collective energy of each member into meaningful, mutually beneficial cultural interactions..Thank you so much for this unforgettable and transformational experience.Altana, Student Friends Seminary South Africa, 2016
The Envoys staff were very open about sharing their first-hand experiences, which was a game-changed in terms of learning about post-apartheid South Africa. Also, having everything planned to the T made me feel very safe. I knew that I was in good hands.Gio H, Student Friends Seminary South Africa 2016
The Envoys Staff were exceptionally committed to us and to the goals of our trip. They were thoughtful, kind, caring, friendly, with great sense of humor, yet serious in their connection to the ethos of professional development that was our trip’s purpose. I was struck over and over again by how they literally RAN to be in the right place to respond to any given situation.Constance, Traveling Faculty Friends Seminary Colombia 2016
Day 1 (Meet in Miami)
We meet in Miami, where we stay in a local hotel and prepare for the upcoming journey.
Day 2 (Havana)
We transfer to the airport and fly into Havana! We move first to our hotel in the Miraflores district. This upscale neighborhood housing embassies, hotels, NGO’s and the international community offers an interesting contrast with the rest of the city while also serving as a fascinating example of how ‘time was frozen’ on the island. We then set out for a ‘first draft’ tour of the city, stopping at the Museo de la Revolución to learn about the events that changed the course of Cuba’s political structures and relationship with the world.
Day 3 (Havana)
We continue to move through Old Havana at a relaxed pace, visiting the Cathedral and El Morro fortress as well as engaging with locals in the streets. In the evening, we take in a traditional ceremony that has united the people of Cuba for hundreds of years. Traditionally, a cannon was fired at six in the morning to open the city gates and again at nine in the evening to close them. While the morning shot has been discontinued, the evening ritual continues to this day, and a popular aphorism has it that a ‘real Cuban’ has attended the shooting of the 9 o’ clock cannon at least once in a lifetime.
Day 4 (Havana)
We meet with a local university professor, who provides a detailed portrait of the Cuban education system and its guiding principles. This conversation is followed by semi-structured conversations with Cuban students about their scholastic experiences and life dreams. We close with a walking tour of the beautiful campus of the University of Havana. One of the oldest universities in the Americas, the school was founded as a religious institution in 1728 and now hosts over 15 colleges spanning disciplines in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, and business.
Day 5 (Cienfuegos)
We begin our day with a visit to the private gallery of Kcho, a Cuban artist who works with a formerly-marginalized community to change their way of relating to the world. Leaving the gallery, we see how the entire neighborhood has been transformed into works of art: the streets, the facades of houses, markets, and more. We continue to the infamous “Bay of Pigs’, visiting the museum and considering the impact of this ill-conceived attempt to alter world affairs.
In the late afternoon, we arrive in Cienfuegos for a short rest before attending the evening show at “Teatro Tomas Terry’. The theater, built in the late 1800s to honor Venezuelan industrialist Tomás Terry, is embellished with Carrara marble, hand-carved Cuban hardwoods and whimsical ceiling frescoes. Running continuously for more than a century, the theater continues to stand as a nexus point for Cuban dance, art, music, and drama.
Day 6 (Cienfuegos)
In 2005, UNESCO designated the historic center of Cienfuegos as the best extant example of the Spanish Enlightenment era of urban planning. We spend the day exploring the city and its highlights, seeking to better understand how the Spanish designs have translated into the modern era. Around Plaza Mayor we find the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad. The 19th-century cathedral is the largest church in Cuba and is renowned for its acoustics and altars made of precious woods. During the afternoon, we are welcomed by a group of local musicians, allowing students to learn dance steps and witness firsthand how musical rhythms reflect the Cuban culture.
Day 7 (Trinidad)
In the morning, we visit Cienfuegos Botanical Garden, established as a center for tropical plant research in the early 1900s, where we find thousands of tree and plant species imported from around the world. Meet with staff to learn about the history of the garden, which once had close ties with the U.S and other nations, exchanging rare botanical specimens. Continuing our program, we reach Valle de Los Ingenios, once the center of Cuba’s sugar industry. Trinidad’s immense wealth was created in this valley, though most of the sugar mills were destroyed during subsequent wars. We stop at the former Casa Guachinango plantation, built in the latter 18th century by Don Mariano Borrell, one of the richest landowners in Cuba during the colonial period, to learn about life past and present on this active farm. In the late afternoon, we continue on to the small town of Trinidad (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site), where we are welcomed by our local ‘Casas Particulares’ hosts and begin the process of acculturation into their lives.
Day 8 (Trinidad)
Trinidad is considered to be “Cuba’s Museum City,” home to an amazing collection of institutions, most of which present objects relating to the town’s 500 years of history. All of these museums are set in beautiful buildings, pearls of colonial architecture, located within the old quarter. We spend the morning moving with our local guides through the city and these museums, gaining a better understanding of how the past continues to influence the present within the town, and the country.
Day 9 (Santa Clara)
We continue on to Santa Clara, a ‘fiery city’ located in the middle of the country that has been testing the boundaries of Cuba’s censorship police for years. The city’s personality has been shaped over time by the presence of the nation’s most prestigious university outside of Havana and a long association with Che Guevara, whose liberating of Santa Clara in December 1958 marked the end of the Batista regime. We spend time picking up the ‘vibe’ of this city, interacting with locals and considering what Santa Clara could become as the country continues to integrate with the outside world. We then continue to Havana, where we take in a Cuban music performance over a farewell dinner.
Day 10 (Travel Home)
We close the program by reviewing our explorations, our learnings, and our extant questions, seeking ways to bring the experience back to our lives at home. We then transfer to the airport for the short flight to Miami, where we transfer on to our home cities within the US.