By Mark F. Bernstein ’83
Some things are universal: The first day of class is awkward, particularly at a new school, and it pays to break the ice. As Johannes Hallermeier ’16 discovered, this is no less true in Cuba than it is anywhere else.
Hallermeier was sitting with a handful of Princeton students and a dozen Cubans in a class on the history of Latin American thought at the University of Havana last February, as part of a revised and expanded study-abroad program. While they waited for the professor, the students kept to themselves — shuffling papers, playing with pens, staring silently at their wooden desks. As a rule, Hallermeier would learn, Cubans are friendly and outgoing people, but today, probably because of first-day nervousness, everyone avoided eye contact. It did not bode well for an engaging semester.