NOVA students had the opportunity to experience science and culture in Cuba during a study abroad program this past summer. Biology and Natural Sciences Associate Professor Jill Caporale took eight students with her during the trip where she said they had a learning experience that differs greatly from the traditional classroom setting.
“I’m interested in getting students out in the real world to experience science and culture,” Caporale explained. “You don’t only want to be in a lab studying science, so we studied the reefs in Cuba and they had hands-on experience. I think if you touch it, if you feel it, then you’ll be more compelled to love it and protect it.”
In the past, Caporale has organized a number of study abroad opportunities including trips to Fiji, Brazil, Costa Rica and Honduras. She said it is important to combine a hands-on opportunity with lecture and readings, which allows for a more rounded educational experience.
Yazmeen Ibrahim and Connor Wulf, second-year NOVA students, said they would recommend studying abroad to any student who has the opportunity. For Ibrahim and Wulf, the 10-day trip to Cuba gave them the chance to study marine biology as well as learn about the culture, music and art.
“We learned a lot about marine biology but within those 10 days, we also explored music, history and culture,” Ibrahim said. “We had mini-lectures, time for hands-on experience where we went diving and snorkeling and then we had a discussion after each lesson. It was an amazing opportunity and I hope other students have the chance to have that experience.”
Caporale said studying the reefs in Cuba was an experience for her as well as the students. She explained that although Cuba is only 90 miles off the coast of the U.S., its reefs differ greatly from those of the U.S. and even the Caribbean – a lot of which some people believe is due to political isolation contributing to its preservation of the natural ecosystem.
Caporale is currently organizing a third trip to Fiji with her collaborator Dr. Richard Murphy of the Jean Michel Cousteau organization. She hopes to generate more interests for the study abroad programs. For additional information about the study abroad opportunities, contact Caporale at email@example.com.