“It was all like a flash of lightning. It was a shock for me to come here. At first I didn’t want to. My father, as a former revolutionary soldier who adores the history of Cuba, wanted me to study here. My brothers had already done it; so I tried too, even though the first few days I didn’t feel like eating and was a little depressed.
“Then I started to interact with people and, in the end, I loved it. I fell in love with the province of Holguín, where I met wonderful teachers, a father, a mother, friends, who have offered me a life experience because we have shared everything. I learned the concept of fraternity, and that inspired me to write my thesis on local development.
“I was the first Angolan to write an applied thesis on local development!” Augusta Lopes Miranda explains, today a graduate of Economics from the University of Holguín.
Born in central Luanda, the capital of Angola, Lopes is mainly interested in politics. She is not the only one among the thousands of international students who graduated in different specialties in Cuba this year to have such an interest. Many leave the island wanting to change the world.
This year, a total of 256 Angolan students graduated in Cuba, among them psychologists, biologists, economists, architects, mathematicians, physicists, doctors, chemists, and engineers.
Granma spoke with some of them and found that almost all defined their studies in Cuba as one of the best experiences of their lives.
“I arrived at just 20 years of age and here I became a woman, a professional, and I’m leaving ready to contribute to the development of my beautiful homeland. I would like to become the first woman President of my country,” Lopes states, noting her desire to expand the social participation of women.
Esmeralda de Fátima Damiao is another Angolan graduate. At the University of Sancti Spíritus, she studied the specialty of Educational Psychology, and graduated with a high academic average of 5.03 points.
“From the time I arrived I was always very clear on the objective that brought me here. I did my degree in four years, even though it was five. I had the opportunity to do fourth and fifth year in a single course, due to my commitment and dedication,” she reveals.
International students on the island can opt for a range of careers in the university system throughout the country.
In the case of Angola, “There is a national cadre training program and an administrative institute for scholarships abroad. Through this body, scholarships are awarded to students who meet the requirements: to be healthy, not to be over 25 years of age, and have a good academic average,” explains Mauro Molose, who just graduated as a doctor.
Aged 30, he is the seventh of eight children in a family from the south of Angola. “I have always been very dedicated to my studies and, thanks to that, I can consider myself a doctor today.
“Our educational system is very different from that of Cuba. In fact, many of us have had certain difficulties entering universities here due to the change of evaluation system. Nevertheless, human beings have an adaptive capacity and we have managed to leave here as professionals,” he adds.
Back in his home country, Dr. Molose studied Agrarian Sciences, but “without giving up my dream of becoming a doctor someday. I knew that Cuba is a world power in this field and when it was announced in my country that they would grant scholarships to Angolans, at that very moment, without looking back, I suspended my agricultural studies and I came here.”
He now considers himself to be Cuban, more specifically from Santiago, and expresses with satisfaction that the experience in Cuba was magnificent. “We lived far from our families, but in Santiago de Cuba we were met with a very welcoming people, very similar to ours. As for seismic activity, Angola is a fairly quiet country. However, in Santiago we always had to deal with tremors. The one that marked us most was that of January 17, 2017, we were very scared.
“We experienced very important moments in the history of this country: the arrival of the Five Heroes, the death of our Comandante...
“We experienced many other events that marked our lives significantly, and I leave as a doctor, but also as a more humane person.”
Yuri Dos Santos, 27, graduated in Architecture at the University of Camagüey. Before coming to the island, he was already studying the third year of Architecture in Angola.
“But I left everything behind and started over here in Cuba. Until I came to Cuba, I felt an uneasiness that I could not explain. So, coming here and being exposed to a different environment, made me grow. Cuba has been exactly that, a school in terms of the development of my thought.
“Studying here has been a privilege because being a graduate of a Cuban university is, for Angolans, synonymous with pride and respect.”
The most important thing for this young man, of everything he has learned here, is the philosophy with which degree courses are taught, at least in his case.
“We learn not only the technical aspect, but the social philosophy. The architecture I have learned is the product of a socialist system, and that is tangible when drawing. I can not create a 41-story tower; I have to think of buildings for the poor and the rich.”
WHAT DO INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS FACE ON RETURNING TO THEIR COUNTRIES?
“In the case of Angola, we must enter the labor market and present our curricula to companies,” notes Yuri from Luanda, who studied alongside students from China, Djibouti, and several countries of the Americas.
“Spanish was the common language for all of us, even though the language was a barrier at first. I’m not going to lie. The early years were not easy, especially as I got sick, but the help of doctors and teachers meant I survived. Not only on the health side of things; also as a human being,” he explains.
José Antonio Ferrera, the most successful international student in his graduation, is from the province of Kwanza Sul, Angola.
“What motivated me to come in principle were the results of Cuban education. My brother came before me and that also served as my inspiration. Now that I have graduated as a mechanical engineer, I do not regret having trained here. There I studied at a polytechnic, which would amount to a vocational course here, and I felt I had a solid base to study on the island.”
HOW TO PUT INTO PRACTICE WHAT WAS LEARNED IN CUBA?
“Angola is emerging from a civil war and we have had just a few years of peace, so our education system cannot be excellent. That’s why we are turning to sister nations to train the intellectuals and scientists who will build the country. We are going to involve them in the country’s social development,” notes José Antonio, who chairs the Assembly of Angolan Students in Cuba.
“I have spent more than half of my youth here and, throughout history, the island has offered its contribution to my country; and today Angola is what it is, thanks to the sisterhood of the Caribbean nation,” José Antonio stresses.
“Cuba not only trains men of science, but also of conscience,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mauro, who graduated with an academic average of 4.92 points, notes: “In my town, we believe that he who is not thankful, is a sorcerer. That’s why I thank Cuba. Because I am what I am now thanks to Cuba.”