Editor's note: "Year One: Life at ASU" is a periodic photo series following five freshmen navigating their first year at ASU. This installment checks in on Eric Arellano's spring activities.
Eric Arellano’s choice of how to spend his first spring break differed from most other freshmen. Through ASU’s new Global Intensive Experience, he and 17 other students went to Cuba to live with and learn from the families, farmers, doctors and entrepreneurs who live there. In preparation, Arellano took POS 486: International Political Economy to provide background for the weeklong trip. The group traveled through the capital of La Habana (Havana); Santa Clara, famous for its memorial to the revolutionary icon Che Guevara; and the historic agrarian community of Trinidad, on the southern coast. Eric appreciated the trip for providing a new perspective on the world and specifically political economy often ignored in the United States.
He shared his and friends' photos from the trip below.
The group of 20 explored Habana Vieja (Old Havana) the first night of arrival. Even though this cathedral forms a centerpiece of the district, it ironically hasn’t been used for religion in more than two centuries.
Walking through the streets of Havana is like going to an antique car show in the U.S. Because of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, many Cubans simply kept repairing their old cars from the '50s and '60s rather than buy new ones. Now, tourists can ride in these classic cars for only $10 an hour.Photo by Eric Arellano
Contrary to the perception of communist countries as depressing and gray, Cuban buildings incorporate bright, bold colors. This famous set of buildings is right outside the Capitol building.Photo by Eric Arellano
Each student on the trip was placed with a host family in order to experience the daily life of a Cuban. The host families not only provided authentic Cuban cuisine and hospitality but also an insider's perspective into Cuban culture, politics and identity. Pictured are Armando and Ania, the host parents of Eric Arellano (whom they affectionately called Ericito).Photo by Jonathon Barkl
Arellano jokingly reported upon returning to the U.S. that Cuba officially made him a commie. While this may have been a joke, indeed he was fascinating by Che Guevara’s cult of personality within Cuba.Photo by Emily Giel
Arellano and his friends quickly became known as the G-6 or Group of Six, a nerdy allusion to the trip’s topic of international political economy. From left: Eric Arellano, Mia Armstrong, Brian Garcia, Grant Laufer and Jonathon Barkl. Emily Giel, the sixth member, took the photo.Photo by Emily Giel
Arellano overlooks the colonial city of Trinidad with fellow Flinn Scholar and best friend Mia Armstrong. The group visited a nearby sugar refinery and explored the city’s artisanry, including purchasing some of Cuba’s famed cigars. The two will be traveling together again for three weeks in China this summer as a part of the Flinn Scholar Program.Photo by Brian Garcia
As an attempt to better understand all aspects of Cuba, the group toured an organic farm — along with a health clinic and the Universidad de la Habana. The organic farm became famous after successfully growing lettuce year-round in the 1990s "Special Period," or time of famine after the collapse of the USSR.Photo by Brian Garcia
The following weekend, the socially minded computer science student traveled early Saturday morning to volunteer in a lower-income neighborhood near the Marc Atkinson Kid Street Park in Phoenix. There, joined with a few of his Next Generation Service Corps friends and around 100 other volunteers, he spent the morning scrubbing the playground equipment and repainting the curb as a part of ASU's Day of Service. Others in the group went around the neighborhood painting a community mural and removing dead vegetation and other debris from alleyways. The project was coordinated with the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, and was encouraged as a way for members of the Next Generation Service Corps to give back to the local community.
Kyle Stenseth (left) and Eric Arellano scrub off grunge from the playground equipment at the Marc Atkinson Kid Street Park in Phoenix. Arellano and other members of the Next Generation Service Corps joined nearly 100 volunteers in cleaning the park and surrounding neighborhood near Camelback Road and the Black Canyon Freeway.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Mia Reza (left), Kyle Stenseth and Eric Arellano (right) scrub off scuff marks from the playground slide. The Day of Service was coordinated through the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Though it didn't require a great effort, it was a fun way to contribute to the children of the community.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
There were not a lot of cleaning supplies, so Arellano improvised with a clean recycling bin, filling it with water to rinse off the soap.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Arellano rinses the soapy dirt off one cup of water at a time. There was no nearby hose that he could use.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
It took the three ASU Next Generation Service Corps students about an hour to clean their part of the playground gym.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Arellano rinses the gym equipment with a few more cups of water.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
See previous entries in this series:
- Eric inspires future scholars
- Reflecting on the freshman experience
- Studying for finals
- Eric gets into service
- Eric collaborates, for humanity
- Eric shifts his focus
- Moving into the dorms