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Language Immersion

Summer: Rutgers- Medicinal Plants and Medical Anthropology in Cuba

Cienfuegos, Cuba

Program Overview

Term Start Date End Date Application Deadline
Mar 15, 2020
Language(s) of Instruction
Class Standing
Good Academic Standing


Program Advisor

The Program

Discover the value of medicinal plants in one of the most highly developed and innovative health care systems in the world.

Medicinal Plants and Medical Anthropology in Cuba provides an introduction to the innovative Cuban Health Care System, with a particular focus on the use of medicinal plants and the cultural and ecological context of health care in Cuba


Program Locations




Cienfuegos, Cuba is a UNESCO World Heritage City. The University of Cienfuegos in one of the most dynamic public universities in Cuba. Cienfuegos has a rich cultural heritage of historical architecture, famous musicians, and Cuban cuisine. The surrounding areas are rich in ecological diversity. The Botanical Garden of Cienfuegos is world renowned, especially for its collection of palm trees.


Cuba’s health care system is one of the most highly developed and innovative in the world. Cuba has a health care system that covers all its people. Medicinal plants are an important part of the Cuban health care system. This is both part of the Cuban culture and an economic necessity due to the high cost of importing pharmaceuticals from other countries.

This course on “Medicinal Plants and Medical Anthropology in Cuba” will explore the role of medicinal plants in the Cuban health care system. The course involves these educational components:

  • Lectures on Cuban History and Health Care
  • Visits to a medicinal plant farm, the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden, and an Art and Ecology Center
  • Visit to the historic city of Trinidad and a visit to a Santeria Temple there
  • Language exchanges with Cuban students to share Spanish and English

The program is being organized in collaboration with Rutgers Global – Study Abroad and the University of Cienfuegos, Cuba. The program is coordinated with Civitas - Global Education Services. The program goes for ten days. Each day will be packed with activities to get to know Cuba and its health care system, as well as broader ecological issues in the Cienfuegos area.

The program will be taught in English but there will be opportunities for students to practice and learn Spanish.

Learning Goals:

  • Learn about the Cuban health care system, understanding the social context of medicine in a socialist country and in the context of globalization;
  • Understand the realities of life in Cienfuegos, Cuba, with a special emphasis on the issues of access to health care for local families and communities;
  • Develop a multinational perspective on health care systems as they operate in Cuba in comparison to the United States;
  • Improve their Spanish language skills through language exchanges with Cuban students and participation in all aspects of the program;
  • Participate wholeheartedly in work projects in the community;
  • Reflect on their learning experiences;
  • Face the challenges of life in a foreign culture with humor and graciousness, showing a respect for local customs and a maturity to deal with the inevitable challenges that will arise;
  • Act as ambassadors for Rutgers University and their country, remembering at all times that they are guests in another land.

Click here to view the 2020 syllabus.  Students receive grades in Medicinal Plants and Medical Anthropology in Cuba (1 credit) and Spanish-English Language Exchange (1 credit).

Academic Calendar

May 21-30, 2020

Housing and Meals

Students will stay in "Casas Particulares", which are private homes that provide lodging and breakfasts to visitors.

Financial Information

Program Costs

This is the billed amount that will appear on your Rutgers term bill during the term you study abroad.
NJ Resident non-NJ Resident
Undergraduate $4,640 $4,830
Graduate $4,760 $4,940
Program Cost includes:
  • Tuition
  • Round-trip flight
  • Visa
  • Housing
  • Some meals
  • Excursions
  • Administrative Fees
  • International SOS Health Insurance

Out-of-Pocket Costs

These are estimated expenses that are not part of your term bill. Students will need to pay for these expenses out-of-pocket.
Meals $100
Personal Expenses $200
Total $300.00
Out-of-Pocket Cost includes:

The above costs are estimations and represent the known out-of-pocket costs students encounter during their time abroad.

Some of these expenses will be paid for prior to going abroad, such as an airline ticket, while some of these expenses, such as meals and personal expenses, will be paid in-country as part of your daily expenses. As you plan, you will need to budget these costs and spend wisely throughout your time abroad.


Available to all Rutgers students participating in a Rutgers Global–Study Abroad program. Applications can be found inside of your study abroad program application. For more information, please visit the Scholarship section of our website.

Faculty Leaders

Professor Peter Guarnaccia

Peter Guarnaccia (Ph.D., Connecticut, 1984, Medical Anthropology) is Professor I in the Department of Human Ecology and Investigator at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University. He has contributed to research, conceptual development and applied applications to many of the important areas in culture and mental health research: cultural analyses of psychiatric epidemiology; the integration of cultural syndromes into psychiatric epidemiology and clinical research; family caregiving for a relative with serious mental illness; cultural competence in mental health services delivery; cultural issues in the anxiety disorders; and acculturation among immigrant students. To carry out this research program, he employs a creative tension between in-depth, ethnographic studies of individuals in a family context and broader community and national studies employing epidemiological approaches.