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Cuba Study Abroad: A Pedagogical Tool for Reconstructing American National Identity



In an attempt to meet the goal of internationalizing the curriculum and equipping students for the twenty-first century and beyond, schools have engaged themselves in a myriad of study abroad programs. These programs, in keeping with many of these schools' missions, are intended to encircle students with a more critical global awareness. While study abroad programs are promoted as self-identity discovery tools, through which students can construct new national identities that transcend national borders, this paper, based on interviews conducted with College of Charleston students who studied in Cuba during spring 2007 and 2009 semesters, explores the relationship between the study abroad experience and identity formation. We argue that these encounters not only allow students to interrogate what it means to “be American” beyond the emotional, physical, and intellectual bounds of the United States, but also how their previous conceptions of self and nation can strengthen, not contradict, a global context.