Now in its 16th year at Eden Theological Seminary, the 2017 international travel study seminar program offered one of the most interesting experiences to date.
It was Eden’s first trip to Cuba and a cross-cultural experience rich with timely connections, including the recent death of Fidel Castro and the July 2015 restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
As with all international travel study seminars at Eden, students focused on gleaning as much as they could from immersing themselves in the culture and in the life of the church in Cuba. They heard testimonies from locals and discussed each evening how their experiences could inform their ministry.
“They (Cubans) have more to offer us than we have to offer them, because what we can learn from them is extraordinary,” said faculty advisor Clint McCann. “We can learn about simplicity and opposed to the incredible opulence we [U.S. Citizens] think we have to have. We can learn the values of joys of community, and this is important because we come from a very individualistic society.”
For Eden seminarians, the J-term international seminar took a great deal of pre-trip planning and reflection. Students prepared by reading writings on Cuba from a variety of viewpoints, including UCC Pastor Ted Braun’s book, “Perspectives on Cuba and Its People.”
“By doing the pre-travel coursework, we’re helping students think about travel as a political act,” said Professor Kristen Leslie who served as one of the advisors on the trip. “When you travel outside of your own territory, you can’t use your own frame.”
According to McCann and Leslie, Eden’s goal for every cross-cultural trip is to have seminarians come back with a different worldview and understanding of how society can be organized—a deconstruction of pre-conceived notions about culture, religion, and politics.