WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A trip to Cuba for a handful of Purdue University students was more than an opportunity for class credit. The trip opened the students’ eyes to a more welcoming way of life.
“There was a lot that I didn’t expect that happened that was amazing,” said senior Maggie DeVoe.
For one week, 20 students got a chance to learn about Cuban food, culture and – most importantly – hospitality.
“They were the kindest, most loving people that I’ve ever gotten to live with for the week,” said DeVoe.
This was a study-abroad opportunity through the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. From local produce to tobacco production, the students learned what Cuba has to offer with the help of Purdue chef Carl Conway.
“It turned out better than I expected. We didn’t have any major glitches at all,” Conway said.
He said this trip helps students experience all phases of the hospitality industry.
“We were staying in people’s homes, who didn’t have a whole lot,” Conway said. “To me, what they did was the essence of hospitality. They offered you the very best that they had.”
DeVoe said one of the very best things was the food – their meals were fresh and flavorful.
“Being able to see them cook with limited supplies was really cool,” DeVoe said.
Junior Kent Zhang said there is a lot Americans can learn from Cubans. He said as a foreigner, it’s sometimes difficult to communicate in America.
“In Cuba, not at all,” said Zhang. “They are all very nice. I don’t speak Spanish. I speak English, and I gesture. But they’re still listening and they try very hard to understand me, and they gave me feedback.”
Conway added, “One thing I was really pleased with – that our students were always, always very appreciative of everything that our hosts did for us.”