President Obama wrapped up his historic three-day trip to Cuba Tuesday afternoon just days after a group of University of Denver students spent a week in the country.
“They welcome you with open arms,” said student Jack Laskey. “You taking an interest in what they do and what their life is, it means the world to them.”
After traveling back to the U.S., Laskey was back on the DU campus days later. He scrolled through hundreds of photos he took on his trip. The MBA student admitted he was a little wary traveling to the country because of the strained relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. But the concern didn’t last.
“I was just very taken aback by the joy in seeing all the kids in the streets playing with basketballs and soccer balls,” he said while looking at a picture.
Each photo captured images of places Americans don’t often see.
“It’s impossible to not get off the plane and just look around and say, ‘Wow! We’re here,'” said Stephen Miller, senior director of entrepreneurship at DU.
The DU group traveled with students from the University of Utah to explore growing entrepreneurship in Cuba, like taxi cab drivers and barbers. Miller said he hopes to continue the program next year.
Cuban infrastructure continues to crumble throughout the country even though hundreds of workers tried to spruce up the streets before President Obama’s visit.
“You see that and then a few blocks away, you are in a completely different area where people are living just above the poverty line and a lifestyle that I’ve personally never seen,” said student Hannah Knauer.
“It’s almost like going to a place frozen in time,” said Miller.
For the most part, Laskey said the Cuban people were eager to speak with American visitors and learn about their neighbors to the north.
“Hopefully it makes us realize they really are our neighbors and the past hopefully can be the past,” said Knauer.
While the two countries continue to mend their relationship, the DU students said this might not be their last trip.
“I would go back tomorrow if I could,” said Laskey.