First Cuba, Then A Thesis

As a political science major with an interest in the Spanish language, Josh Thompson ’17 knew that when he studied abroad, he wanted to be in Latin America. “Spain is crawling with American students,” he says. “When you’re around a lot of English speakers, it’s really tempting to speak English.” 

He sought advice from Amherst alumni. One advised him to study in a place where he couldn’t otherwise visit or live. Thompson—who is from Greensboro, N.C.—settled on Cuba. 

He spent the Fall 2015 semester taking courses in Cuban art history and the political economy of capitalism at the University of Havana.

American news coverage of Cuba is one-dimensional, he says. “You read about a place that’s frozen in time—old cars, old buildings.” While it’s true that Cubans are very limited materially, he says, the country is culturally rich.

His study-abroad experience has led to his thesis topic. With Professor Javier Corrales as his adviser, he’ll be writing about “the driving forces behind the recent changes in U.S.–Cuban relations and what’s likely to come from them.”