The Spanish Department of the faculty of Foreign Languages offers Spanish Intensive Language Courses for non Spanish speaking students. The faculty has over 30 years experience of practical application of teaching Spanish.
On 17th July 2015, 25 foreign students, making up 16 nationalities, graduated after completing their studies at Habana University. They had spent almost six years in Cuba. Together they recalled their passage through student life and shared their expectations about the future. The graduates expressed their deep gratitude to the university and the people of Cuba for their hospitality, training and love. They also stated their commitment to becoming ambassadors of the university (and Cubans) back in their home countries.
Habana University and others throughout Cuba are open to people from all over the world. ELAM (Latin American Medical School) is an international medical school where students are taught free of charge. Find out more in my chapter about ELAM. Meanwhile, the Spanish department of the Faculty of Foreign Languages offers intensive language courses. The faculty has over 30 years’ experience in the practical application of teaching Spanish.
The courses are available to anybody interested in learning or improving their Spanish language. The professors within the faculty are amazing and wonderful individuals. They are highly dedicated, motivated and professional and are a true credit to the university and their families. Having them in my life has made me a better person, and I’ve learnt more than a second language – I have learnt about how to be a better human being, how to feel and how to see more in the world around me.
I have met students from between the ages of 18 to 76. They have been Palestinian, Dutch, Turkish, Slovakian, German, Italian, Japanese, Canadian, Scandinavian, French, Korean, Chinese, Irish, Scottish, Russian and Australian (plus there has been a few British and US people).
In my time at the university I found the students to be very inclusive - regardless of an individual’s ability to speak Spanish - when arranging or organising activities after lessons and at the weekend.
You will have a brilliant time studying there.
Enrolment in short courses happens on the first Monday of each month, except August. On this day students enrol on the course and their appropriate level is determined. Don’t worry - this is not as scary as it sounds.
At 9am there is a presentation explaining the courses available and the necessary information such as times, length and costs. These are spoken in Spanish and English.
After the presentation, you will be asked to complete a Spanish written test. Most of you will write your name clearly on the top of the test paper and then look around the room. Don't worry if you have no written Spanish, just smile and the staff will notice and direct you to the next stage - the oral test. Oh no! Others will be sitting next to you scribbling away. Again, don't worry about them.
Most of you will enter the oral test room and say maybe Hola or something you believe could be Spanish. Others will be pretty fluent. Again, don't worry – everyone is there to learn.
When you have finished your oral test, you should be directed to fill out your application enrolment form - don't leave the building before doing this. The application form requires personal details such as your name, passport number, nationality, D.O.B., address in Cuba and home address, plus emergency contact details. Write in BLOCK CAPITALS, you will see why when you receive your contract.
Top Tip - You will need two passport-sized portrait photos of yourself. Depending on the length of your course you will need between 2 and 10 photos. You can get these in Cuba, but it would be better to take them with you. Locations of Photo ID services are listed further down in this chapter.
Top Tip - I recommend getting between two and eight full colour or black and white copies of your passport, just for the university.
Apart from the months of December, April and July, four-week courses are available. Be aware of Easter in 2016 and 2017 as the courses in March/April may be split into two parts, with a week’s holiday in the middle. Pay attention to the months that have five weeks in them as the courses are likely to be unpredictable.
Beginner - Principate
Elementary - Elemental
Intermediate - Intermedio
Advanced - Avanzado
Top - Superior
Costs and Packages
I don't know why week three is only $40CUC more, but this is correct.
Short Course Lengths & Timetables
The first Monday of the month is always enrolment so there are no teaching sessions. After enrolment has finished the rest of the day is free.
To make up for this short Monday, hours are extended over the next four days. For the rest of the month lessons are spread out over five days.
Week one Tuesday to Friday
1st Class start 09:00 -10:30
Break 10:30 - 11:00
2nd class Start 11:00 - 12:30
Break 12:30 - 12:35
3rd Class start 12:35 - 13:30
For Weeks, Two, Three & Four Monday to Friday
1st Class start 09:00 -10:30
Break 10:30 - 11:00
2nd class Start 11:00 - 12:30
Week Two, Three & Four there are classes on all five week days, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays.
There is the opportunity to study Spanish over a longer period of time. Courses begin in September and end in July. They alternate between three and two day weeks.
There are two different types of long courses: the academic term that is for anybody and the preparatory course, which is really designed for students who have completed high school and arrive in Cuba to pursue courses at the university in the next academic year. Both the Short and Long Courses of Spanish are open to everybody.
Costs: academic term $1798CUC & the preparatory course $2000CUC
There are other courses available as well.
Integral Practice Spanish Language I $500CUC
Integral Practice Spanish Language II $400CUC
Course in Cuban Culture of around 60 hours. $360.00 CUC
For more details, check out the university’s website, or you could try emailing Alexeis. He’s a great guy but don’t worry if you don't receive a reply from him, just turn up on the first Monday of the month and you will be fine
Office of International Academic Services
Lic. Alexeis Baez Sanchez
Phone: (537) 870 46 67, 870 84
You can study for up to either 2 months or 6 months, depending on your tourist visa and/or if you’ve exchanged your tourist visa for a student one. You can do this after you have arrived in Cuba - there is no need to prearrange. In fact, it is harder to arrange it beforehand.
If you apply for a student visa you will need to purchase stamps from the bank. Don't worry, this is easy and straightforward, if you are organised.
Check with Daniela or Alexeis in the office about the current stamp values needed a student visa.
- For three and four months, stamps value $40CUC.
- For Six months, stamps value $50CUC
Your Tourist visa will be exchange for a “Carne de Identidad” and you will be granted status of “Residencia temporal” How Cool!
You will need to visit an immigration office, which will be arranged for you, as you will have to sign your “Carne” directly. Also, you will have your thumbprint taken and your height confirmed in centimetres
Paying for your course
In week one, on the Tuesday or Wednesday, you should receive in your classroom your contract, which will state the length and cost of your course.
Check this carefully, especially the spelling of your name, nationality and passport number. If incorrect, get this changed in the first break or at the end of the lesson. Do not delay or wait until tomorrow.
Check all the contract details match your course length and cost. If incorrect, do not put off getting this changed.
You pay for your course on the Thursday or Friday of the first week. This is normally done in the classroom next to the administration office, where the wonderful and ever helpful Daniela is located. When your lessons end around 1.30pm this will be your only opportunity to pay at this location.
This process is long, or the queue will be long, depending on the number of students. Try arranging with your professors to finish early so you can be at the front of the queue. Tell the people behind you that you learnt this from my book!
Normally, there are between two or three students in the payment room at any one time - I have known it to take over two hours for everybody to be seen.
If any mistakes or incorrect paperwork are found, you will be unable to pay on this day. New paperwork will need to be printed on the following day and you will be required to make the payment in person at the Directorate of Economics at the University of Habana, in a building that’s around a 45 to 60 minute walk from where the Spanish lessons take place. Now you should be clear on why you need to be organised and write your enrolment application form in clear BLOCK CAPITALS.
Unfortunately, the university contract and the payment part of your course are entered on two different systems, so sometimes payment paperwork does not match the contract paperwork, which is out of your control. Again, you will not be able to continue with the payment process that day. But don’t worry, this happened to me. Just go for an ice cream! After living in Cuba for a while some of us at the university developed a Spanish saying whenever anything like that happened - “Esta es Cuba”, but we were always smiling.
The Directorate of Economics is located on Calle 13, Entre 8 and 15 in Vedado, in a big white house on the corner. The building does not have any signs or markings. It is open between Monday and Friday. Go early before class (around 8.30am) and wait. I do know they are open in the afternoons, but I cannot keep up with the changes so ask fellow students who have been around for a while.
You will need to make the payment in the next few days as you will not be able to join future lessons until payment is made in full. This policy is currently fairly relaxed and I have known it take some students up to a week to pay, but they still attend lessons in the meantime.
Where To Eat, ID-Photos, Miscellaneous.
Be quick about eating – you only have 30 minutes.
There is a cafeteria in the grounds of the university. Directions are hard to explain so see the map below. It serves juices, large sandwiches and snacks, accepting payment in National Pesos.
On Calle Ronda next to the university (east), between San Miguel and Neptuno, is a well-known and lovely cafeteria serving coffee, yoghurt and a range of sandwiches. These are all sold in National Pesos out of a window, which is normal.
On the west side of Habana University there is Calle J, between Jovellar y Calle 25, which is littered with Cuban local cafeterias and paladares. These serve everything, including pizza and cake, again all sold in National Pesos.
There are many places in Habana that offer photographic and printing services, one of the easiest places is near to the University on Calle L - between Calle 25 and 23 - directly opposite the Habana Libre Hotel. Also on Calle 23, between J and H, look for the signs of cameras and printers.
To the best of my knowledge, there is nowhere to buy bottled drinking water at the university. See my section on the water filter bottle that you should purchase before arriving in Cuba. It will save you time and money.
For those students arriving in Cuba without a dictionary, don’t worry. An excellent Spanish School dictionary can be purchased. This is better than other dictionaries as it includes verb tables. At the bottom of the steps of the university on Calle L, diagonally opposite Hotel Colina, there is an excellent bookshop where you can purchase this Collins Spanish to English School Dictionary (there’s also Spanish to other languages). The School Dictionary can be found in the glass display cabinets, as well on the bookshelves.
You pay for your course on Thursday or Friday of the first week, this is normally done in the classroom next to spanish course in havana for adults course details.