Topic: College of Communication Information and Media

February 27, 2015

Ball State students will spend eight days in Cuba over their spring break, documenting the Caribbean nation for future visitors as part of a travel journalism project.

Cuba

Students will spend their spring break in Cuba, writing about day-to-day life in the Caribbean country.

Fourteen students and three faculty members will tour Cuba from March 1-8, writing stories with accompanying video and photos. They will update the website eightdaysincuba.com. They will be one of the first college classes in more than 50 years to visit the island nation of 11 million.

“Essentially, anyone can go to Italy or England or Spain, but I don't know anyone who has been to Cuba,” said Miranda Carney, a junior from Mason, Ohio.

“I'm planning on doing reporting and writing while in Cuba so I can work on some longer form stories when I get back. I think whenever you can get real-world experiences outside of the classroom, it better prepares you for the future and makes you more well-rounded after graduation. For me, the experiences I have learned most from in college are the ones that take you outside of the classroom.”

Project will chronicle everyday lives in Cuba

Students will produce stories and other information for a website that will help future visitors to Cuba, said journalism instructor Ryan Sparrow, who is leading the trip.

Ryan Sparrow, journalism instructor

“Cuba has been cut off from the U.S. for decades, since the American government introduced a trade embargo to counter the nation’s communist government,” Sparrow said. “So, for visitors it will be a very different experience.”

The website will include information such as how to prepare, what to bring, and potential problems with currency.

“We also will document how people live on a daily basis,” Sparrow said, “interviewing local residents and local officials about a life we know so little about as Americans.”

In recent weeks, editors from USA Today have indicated an interest in posting the students’ stories, photos and videos on the publication’s travel and college-themed pages.

The students also will post photos to an Instagram account showing classic American cars on the streets of Cuba and documenting their stops across the country.

Rare experience for aspiring journalists

The trip has been in the works since last summer, Sparrow said. But President Barack Obama’s recent announcement that the U.S. would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and ease travel restrictions — imposed by the U.S. in 1961 — reduced much of the red tape.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Cuba, and my fascination with travel journalism fits perfectly with the trip,” he says. “At the same time, I believe our students will gain a deeper understand about the history of Cuba.

“Somehow, Cubans have pushed past communism to create their culture. We’ll be chronicling a nation that seems to be paused in the mid-1960s. It looks timeless, but it is also a closer look at Cuba’s poverty and crumbling buildings.”

Jonathan Miksanek, a senior majoring in chemistry from Sylvania, Ohio, believes he will be one of last photographers to capture Cuba before tourists overrun the nation.

“This is one of the last opportunities to see Cuba as it is and as it was,” said Miksanek, who is studying chemistry. “With talks of ending the embargo, it's very possible that Cuba will no longer be the time capsule we know it to be. With something that was so very much a part of our recent history, it's almost our duty to grasp what's left before it disappears in the luxuries of modernity.

“Despite all this, I look at this as more than a glimpse into the past but also as a way to experience a culture, a people, a place different than what I've grown up in. Travel is essential to us as a people, to foster a global understanding. I want to be a part of that.”