It was the best three months of my life. I have never learned so much about myself or the world in such a short time. I felt that I overcame some challenges and I see the world from a wider lens now. I am forever grateful for Carpe Diem.

- Kyra, East Africa Fall 2014

The experience in the southwest changed my life forever. It was exactly what I needed and taught me so much about releasing my expectations. I learned an incredible amount from the beautiful people on the journey and can only be in deep gratitude to Carpe Diem for providing such an amazing and blessed experience.

- Abby, Indigenous America Fall 2012

The experience of living on the reservations and getting a firsthand education on traditional Indigenous cultures and modern issues the tribes are being forced to cope with or to resist is not something one can accurately learn about through a textbook or a classroom. Simply listening to a Native voice and hearing the inflections of pain, anger and resilience regarding certain topics is enough to give a student the chance to learn about what really matters to numerous peoples who have been forced to fight to protect their way of life for centuries and who remain strong in the face of all hardships which have been cast against them.

- Thomas, Indigenous America Fall 2013

Possibilities seem more possible to me and my life feels like my own to lead. I never thought I would travel in Latin America and now I want to go to every country within it. This is not a phase in my life, Carpe has truly changed who I am, allowed me to encounter my essence and live more fully and truthfully.

- Katie, Latitudes Central America/Peru

I worked in the Amazon cutting down banana trees, ate Colombian street food, danced on rooftops with new (now lifetime) friends, learned Spanish well enough to be able to develop relationships entirely in another language, adopted the practice of Yoga into my daily life (and have never felt better...), participated in traditional, Amazonian medicine ceremonies and learned to cook incredible vegetarian food... and, in the process, I have gained more confidence and clarity than I could have ever imagined.

- Julia, Latitudes South America/Columbia

I am certain, anyone who does a Carpe Diem gap year will come out more mature, more humble, and with a better understanding of the world and the opportunities we take for granted every day. For the rest of my life I will Carpe Diem, and share it with those around me. -Tom, Latitudes

- Tom, Latitudes

Carpe Diem was the most amazing time I have had in my life. This is where I really came to know myself as a person, I may have learned a lot about other countries and parts of the world, but in the end I learned about myself.

- Christine, South Pacific

I have felt such deep, unconditional love in this family, this awesome community. Every moment and every crazy experience in India felt so meant to be and I am so grateful to have shared this with these friends I love. All of this will be in my heart as I travel on my own and go home.

- Phoebe, India

This is such a beautiful chance to grow and learn with a traveling community while interacting and with the wide world around you. You will change, learn, laugh, and grow while experience some of the most beautiful places and people the world has to offer.

- Tate, South Pacific

My experience brought me closer to the person I truly want to be and instilled in me a desire to travel and learn that could not have been gained through high school or college alone.

- Frances, South Pacific

Experience

Some people say that traveling in Cuba is like traveling back in time. Others marvel at how Cuban music has made the entire world dance. Still others are fascinated by what communism has meant for the Cuban people or what we can learn from Cuba’s sustainable agriculture and forward thinking conservation practices.

Don’t take their word for it. Solve your curiosity and look for answers to your own questions on Carpe Diem Education’s Cuba semester. Over the course of three months you will explore this previously off-limits Caribbean country and immerse yourself in the rich music, art, and innovation that make it so special. Be an ambassador after so many years of separation between U.S. and Cuban students and make up your own mind about this complex and dynamic country that is on the verge of transformation.

Your journey will take you all over Cuba exploring Baracoa and Santiago de Cuba in Cuba’s “wild-east”, the forested peaks of the Sierra Madre, Viñales, Ciénega de Zapata, Las Terrazas, Havana, and much more. Dance in music-filled streets. Indulge in outdoor adventure and colonial charm. Trek Cuba’s highest mountain. Learn Spanish so you can make friends with people you never could have spoken with if you hadn’t learned their language. Make your world bigger. Get your hands dirty while you work side by side with Cuban farmers and learn about sustainable agriculture. Challenge yourself to play afro-cuban rhythms on sacred drums. Learn about the Orishas and what Santeria really is. Swim in waterfalls. Give yourself the space to connect with who you really are. Learn why Cubans are almost always smiling and vibrant even when they have so “little”. Discover new friends, new perspectives, and new futures. And then share everything you learn about this “forbidden country” with your friends and family back home.

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Journey


ORIENTATION
Surrounded by bright-blue ocean, towering-green mountains, and laced with rivers, Baracoa was the home of the ancient Taino culture and, in 1511, was where the Spaniards first arrived in Cuba: it’s an ideal place for your journey to begin. The group will stay together in a lovely “casa particular” (a private house that welcomes guests), while you explore mountains, waterfalls, and beaches, prepare for the rest of your semester by learning about the history of Cuba, and have your first Cuban feast. You’ll learn more about the program, your fellow group mates, and set intentions for the semester ahead. You’ll also learn strategies for staying safe and healthy while traveling.
LANGUAGE STUDY
Baracoa

While staying together at a casa particular near the historic town square, you will have daily Spanish classes in small groups. There will be plenty of opportunities to practice as you continue to explore this small, secluded and colonial Cuban city, adventure in the surrounding forest, learn about coffee, make chocolate, and drink coconut water fresh from the shell.

Santiago de Cuba

Music and dance are the heartbeat of Cuba; talk with any santiaguero and they’ll tell you that Santiago de Cuba is the heart. Through workshops and excursions, you’ll spend your first few days in Santiago learning about the colorful history, rhythms, and religions of Afro-Cuban culture. Then it’s your turn! You will study Spanish in the mornings and take Afro-Cuban drumming and dance classes in the afternoon. According to our friend Elio, “dancing a conga in Santiago should be on everyone’s bucket list”. Maybe you’ll get your chance!

La Habana

Havana has been a boomtown since Spanish galleons outran pirates and found shelter here, loaded with gold and headed to the Old World with their loot. From cutting-edge art to talking politics with street musicians on the malecón (the waterfront where Cubans head at sundown), Havana offers a world of eclectic experiences. In the mornings, the group will take language classes, then you’ll be able to give back by teaching English to local youth at a new community center in Centro Habana. On the weekends you can fine-tune your language skills with your new friends as you explore Havana together.

STUDIES IN SUSTAINABILITY
Until the early 1990’s, Cuba was extremely dependent on the Soviet Union for food, goods, and gas. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba went into a crisis called the Special Period. It’s said that most Cubans lost 30% of their body weight. In desperation, Cuba turned to sustainable agriculture and saved the country from starvation. You’ll spend a week working at a sustainable and organic agriculture cooperative. Working side by side with the Cubans who run the co-op, you’ll learn about the Cuban food system (which is very different from the U.S. model), organic agriculture, and community organizing.
COMMUNITY BASED VOLUNTEERING
Until the early 1990’s, Cuba was extremely dependent on the Soviet Union for food, goods, and gas. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba went into a crisis called the Special Period. It’s said that most Cubans lost 30% of their body weight. In desperation, Cuba turned to sustainable agriculture and saved the country from starvation. You’ll spend a week working at a sustainable and organic agriculture cooperative. Working side by side with the Cubans who run the co-op, you’ll learn about the Cuban food system (which is very different from the U.S. model), organic agriculture, and community organizing.

STUDENT DIRECTED TRAVEL
A unique opportunity for the group to work together to design, plan, budget, and implement their own itinerary. Traveling together, the group will arrange transportation, accommodation, and activities – what will the group decide?
CULTURAL IMMERSION
Homestay in Pinar del Rio

While Havana buzzes and Santiago dances, the life of most Cubans unfolds to the easy rhythms and good food of the countryside. Some say it’s like stepping back in time. You’ll spend a few days staying in the homes of campesinos in the western province of Pinar del Rio. Fine-tune your Spanish, learn how to cook a Cuban meal, and explore rural Cuba with your new “family” as you help out with daily chores in the house and out in the fields.

Korimakao Proyecto Cultural in Ciénega de Zapata

Young Cubans (17-22) from all over the country come to Korimakao to study dance, music, and theater and then bring these arts to rural communities. You will spend a week at Korimakao helping out, learning, and getting to know the youth that are keeping the creative fire alive in the provinces. This is an unparalleled opportunity to experience what Cuba really is, completely off the beaten track.

OUTDOOR ADVENTURE
Trekking

Spend 3-5 days trekking the stunning Sierra Maestra, home of Pico Turquino which rises to 6,476 ft and is the tallest mountain in Cuba. Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Camilo Cienfuegos led the Cuban Revolution from these same mountains. During your trek, the group will have the chance to talk with campesinos, learn about revolutionary history, and marvel at the unique biodiversity of the region as you cross the mountain range and reach the ocean! At night enjoy the star-studded skies and cold-mountain air! During the trek, you will be staying in rustic cabins.

REFLECTION RETREAT
The group will travel to Los Baños de San Juan, deep in the heart of the Biosphere Reserve of the Sierra de Rosario. Here you’ll stay in a cabin that looks like a birdhouse on the edge of a pristine river and a luscious swimming hole. Use this time for self-exploration to turn inside and focus on nourishing your mind, body, and spirit. While practicing yoga and mediation take time to reflect on everything you have experienced and learned during the journey, from each other, and with the friends you have made along the way.

Details


Accepting Applications For:
Fall 2017
Spring 2018

DATES

SPRING 2017 February 15 – May 10*
FALL 2017 September 13 – December 6*
SPRING 2018 February 14 – May 9*
*Dates may fluctuate depending on flight times and availability.

Not sure what to do after your semester? Check out our Latitudes program to do a focused volunteer placement for your second semester! CLICK HERE

GROUP SIZE

A maximum of 12 Students & 2 Overseas Educators

ELIGIBILITY

Ages 17 and Up

COLLEGE CREDIT & FINANCIAL AID

Earn up to 18 credits through our partnership with Portland State University.
Learn more on our College Credit page.

Carpe Diem students can access Financial Aid.
Learn more on our Financial Aid page.

LANGUAGE REQUIREMENT

None

PROGRAM TUITION

$13,900

Program tuition includes all food, accommodations, scheduled program activities, and international travel insurance for the duration of the program. International airfare, VISA costs, and spending money are extra. International airfare estimated at $700-$900.