Our Cuba Med School Walls

Graham Sowa

Mural by Bolivian medical students.

To describe the architecture at the Latin American School of Medicine I would use the phrase ‘utilitarian functionality of the Soviet Block School’. In the same amount of floor space that a United States University would have trouble fitting 2,000 students the Cubans fit 4,000.

This is due to better scheduling of classroom use, communal living, and efficient use of common spaces. I base those three claims on my 4 years of university experience at 2 different United States schools and visits to dozens of other U.S. institutions.

In the U.S. we have classrooms that get used only once a day or twice a day, redundant open spaces, and now increasingly privatized student housing that takes up a lot of real estate. And the Cubans don’t even sacrifice class size. My class sizes here (20-80 students) are smaller than they were at either the A&M University in Corpus Christi or the University of North Texas.

So that is the “utilitarian functionality” part of my description.

Now what about that “Soviet Block school” part? Well, that is just me trying to be cheeky about the fact that all the buildings basically look the same. Three to five floors with roughly the same dimensions as a well formed loaf of bread.

And that is not just at the Latin American School of Medicine, but at many educational institutions I have seen around Cuba. The buildings can be completely indistinguishable from one another, no matter where they are on the island. Some may use this observation to pass judgment of one kind or another, but remember, we are here to learn medicine; not appreciate expensive and extravagant architecture.

Now as far as the aesthetics of the medical school go the administration has given us carte blanche; almost literally. Every delegation can apply for wall space to put up posters, paint murals, and put up notices concerning campus events. Most of the murals are the most permanent and represent various Latin American delegations.

However, with the recent arrival of many countries from Africa, Oceana, and South East Asia we may get some new scenery.

So what follows bellow are creations of students at ELAM and one of the many way we all try to create a little bit of home in our melting pot by the sea.

Click on the tumbnails below to view all the photos in this gallery

Graham

Graham Sowa: I've been living in Cuba for three years now. I would like to blame my obvious hair loss seen in this updated photo on the rigors of life here and medical school, but it is probably just genetic. I've made some of the strongest friendships during my time in Cuba from other writers on this website. The strength of those friendships has almost restored my faith that the online world can lead to offline and real life change. On that same note I've adjusted to using internet one or two hours a month. In the meantime I have rediscovered things like flipping through the pages of books, writing stuff down by hand, and having to admit that I don't know something instead of rapidly looking up the answer on Google while the teacher isn't looking.


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