Visiting the Frederico Engels School: a few days in another system

We were riding our bikes along a small road, before we turned left. Suddenly, in front of us, there was the big building of the “Frederico Engels School”. All 1074 Students stood there and cheered. Only for our arrival, they played music and performed a dance. I felt a bit weird since the students treated us like stars. Our arrival was very special for them and because of that, it was a big celebration.

After a warm welcome, we observed the first big difference to our normal school life in Germany. They presented a parade, which was similar to a military parade in our view. It was a very interesting experience, but also unusual for us and something completely new.

On our first day in the school, we were given the chance to take part in the regular lessons. For that, we were divided into small groups. One Cuban student lead each group and showed us the big school with so many steps and corridors. The classroom was simple and old but tidy. I visited the Spanish lesson with some other KUSis. For me it was very interesting because they were covering with the role of the woman in the society in Cuba today and in the past. The other KUSis took part in physics, biology or maths classes.

Before lunch break, we visited the music room. Lucian immediately found the piano and started playing. Soon, he was joined by other students to make music together. The Cuban students knew a lot of songs that we could sing as well. It was a funny session, with all of us together trying to make music and communicating in mixed languages. Not all of them were able to speak English and most of us had only started to learn Spanish with the beginning of the journey and could only say a few words – so it wasn’t too easy.

At lunchtime we went to the canteen, where everyone got a portion of rice with beans. It was really cool, to speak with the students as they told us about their normal school day and how they live. Not all, but a lot of them are living in the boarding school. On the other hand, the Cubans were of course curious to learn something about our life on board and in Germany. They also wanted to take selfies with us. We were a bit confused because we didn’t understand why. In the afternoon, we spent time on the sports ground to play basketball or volleyball.

As the Cubans had invited us to visit their bedrooms and take part in dancing class this evening, we came back at seven p.m. to learn some dance moves and steps. But before that, we got the opportunity to have a look into the bedrooms of the boarding school, which I found very impressive to see. In each room live 60 girls or boys. Everyone has a bed and a locker. That’s it. After that, the dancing lesson started. First, a few students showed us typical dance moves to Cuban music. Later, the dancing class developed into a party. They knew a lot of dancing steps to so many songs, so in comparison to them, we were very bad, but it was a lot of fun anyway. The atmosphere was indescribable because everyone was in a good mood and we were all laughing and dancing.

The next day, it was the “driving home day” for the students that live in the boarding school. It is special for them because it doesn’t happen so often. With their luggage, they waited in front of the school for the buses. In the waiting time, we played a lot of funny games together, like a special version of Twister. All in all, these days were impressive and exciting for all of us. Now, we know so much more about the Cuban school system and about the life of young people in Cuba, both of which are so different to what we are used to back home in Germany.