The study of medicine is a noble, yet grueling pursuit, but now students can earn at least a portion of their medical education credentials by studying abroad in a foreign country such as Cuba. The universities in Cuba offer many study abroad and student exchange programs, where students who are studying medicine or pursuing a pre-medical education can live and study for a time in the country, usually for a semester or academic year, and earn credits toward their specific degree.
Officially known as the Republic of Cuba, the island country of Cuba is located in the Caribbean, just 93 miles south of the United States. The nation comprises the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several smaller archipelagos. Havana is the capital of Cuba, its largest city and the main political, cultural and economic center of the country. Also influential is the second-largest city in Cuba, known as Santiago de Cuba. In addition to its proximity to the United States, Cuba is also very near to the Bahamas in the northeast, Mexico to the west (about 130 miles away); the Cayman Islands and Jamaica to the south, and Haiti and the Dominican Republic to the southeast.
Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, and with a population of roughly 11 million inhabitants, it is the second-most populous Caribbean country after Hispaniola, albeit with a much lower population density than most nations in the region. A very multiethnic and multicultural country, the traditions and customs of Cuba have been influenced by many different groups and events over the years, including the early culture of the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the long period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves to the country, Cuba’s close relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and the close proximity to the United States.
Cuba consistently ranks high in areas such as health and education, particularly in comparison to other island nations in the region.
Medical Education in Cuba
Medical education in Cuba is loosely modeled after that of the United States and is offered by a select few of the country’s universities. Pre-medical education, on the other hand, which usually consists of a bachelor degree program, is more widely offered and is very popular among Cuban and international students.
The pre-medical coursework that is offered by many of Cuba’s universities is considered to be a “track” that follows a certain curriculum, which may or may not lead to a Bachelor degree. Most pre-medical students in Cuba tend to major in the natural and applied sciences, such as agricultural science, biology, chemistry, or physics, though this is not necessarily a requirement. Some pre-professional degree programs in agriculture prepare students for direct entry into the workforce in fields in that are in high demand, while also meeting the requirements for medical or veterinary schools. The latter curriculum model is meant to enhance the employability of graduates awaiting admission or choosing not to attend professional or graduate school.
The coursework that must be taken and passed to meet the pre-medical requirements, as set forth by the medical schools’ administration in Cuba, consists of chemistry (at least two years, with one of those years being organic chemistry) and one year each of biology and physics. Health science and nutrition courses, while not required, can also help prepare students for medical school admission.
Some pre-medical students may be advised or required to take upper level biology and chemistry electives, such as cellular biology, physical chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics. Specific requirements for these courses vary from one institution to the next. Universities may also have requirements for non-science classes. Some, for example, require a certain number of general humanities credits, while others have specific requirements for courses in English, Psychology, and/or other disciplines.
Studying in Cuba gives students the unique chance to combine an exciting academic experience with a fun and interesting Caribbean holiday. Cuba offers a remarkable combination of culture, history and Caribbean charm, all set against a backdrop of sunny skies and white-sand beaches that stretch for miles. When not busy in the classroom, students will have plenty of opportunities to explore all the sights and attractions Cuba has to offer, a few of which include: Why Study Abroad in Cuba
Havana’s Old Center
The Old Center of Havana is a pure delight to explore; a place peppered with a host of colonial buildings that are remarkably well preserved. The Spanish founded the city of Havana in 1519 and just 30 years later it became one of the most significant shipbuilding centers in the Caribbean. The neoclassical and Baroque architecture of the houses lining Havana’s streets mean you’ll discover something new at every turn. Some of the more interesting sites in this downtown center include the Plaza de la Catedral, home to Havana’s largest place of worship and a lively city square; and the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales on Plaza de Armas, a gorgeous structure featuring rows upon rows of detailed archways and an idyllic courtyard.
The Vinales Valley is home to the country’s booming cigar-making industry, so spending a day or two exploring this region is a great way to gain insight into one of Cuba’s most famous exports. Traditional agricultural techniques are still employed on many of the remaining tobacco plantations and these historic methods, combined with the formation of the surrounding hills and mountains, have resulted in the area being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Touring the valley is a must if you want to appreciate its unique cultural heritage, while a trip to one of the cigar factories in the nearby city of Pinar del Rio is a wonderful way to round off an afternoon while gaining more knowledge with regard to this iconic industry.
No trip to Cuba would be complete without spending a few days at Varadero Beach and basking in the glorious sunshine of one of Cuba’s most picturesque sites. Varadero Beach is one of the most famous resorts in Cuba. In addition to its beautiful stretch of sand and surf, the area also boasts an 18-hole golf course, numerous hotels and restaurants, and plenty of outdoor activities for people of all ages.
To the south of Varadero Beach is the beautiful Zapata Peninsula—a vast area of wetland that was recently declared a Biosphere Reserve. If you want to seek out some of Cuba’s native wildlife, this is definitely the place to be. Alligators inhabit the swamp’s waters, while a wide range of birds also make their home here, including the tiny yet fascinating bee hummingbird. Other creatures you may encounter at the reserve include manatees and the extremely rare manjuari fish.