In Cuba, in spite of the political animosity between our nations, we have always watched American films on local TV. Even though children are not supposed to watch them due to the adult content of some of them, I implored my parents to let me watch at least the ones scheduled on Saturday nights. Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for my mom, these movies weren't subtititled. I would always beg her to read them for me since I couldn't do it fast enough, but without fail, my mom quickly grew tired and told me to try harder on my own. I decided then, that I wanted and needed to understand what they were saying in the movies. Then, when I was introduced to the English language as part of my sixth-grade curriculum, I discovered one of my passions in life: foreign languages.
I enjoyed learning English so much that I borrowd an English grammar book, and, using a bilingual dictionary, I translated the test and exercise prompts. By the way, I still have that handwritten copy. By ninth grade, I won first prize at the English language competition in my home province. Out of modesty, I should not have mentioned that, but I'm very proud of it.
When the time came to go to college, I was unsure what I should study, but upon asking myself what I most enjoyed, the answer appeared. After completing my military service, I moved 300 miles away from home to earn a degree in foreign languages at the prestigious University of Havana. In addition to improving my English, I also learned French and Russian, despite the disapproval of many in my life who argued that it would be a waste of time to learn Russian since Cuba no longer had the same political or economic ties with the region since the fall of the Soviet Union.
When I finished my studies, I wanted to become a translator and interpreter, but I instead became a tour guide for economic reasons. Those of you who have traveled to Cuba before might have learned a little bit about the idiosyncrasies of the Cuban economy. It's these same idiosyncrasies that make it so that I, as a tour guide, earn a better living than my sister, who is a surgeon. The average salary for a Cuban employed by the state (i.e. anyone who doesn’t work in the private sector) is about $25 per month.
Although it is not the profession I initially sought for myself, being a tour guide has been great! Working as a tour guide has further developed my communication skills. It was no longer an academic course, but the real world, and I could no longer use my mother tongue in the case of emergency. It has been a growing experience to interact with native speakers of the languages I learned in college. To my great joy, I've been called a "good ambassador" for my people on several occasions.
Lately, I've been working almost exclusively with American groups. They have taught me so many things. I feel blessed to have met such wonderful people who have helped me see new horizons. Americans have been the kindest, most openhearted, most respectful, most environmentally conscious, and most generous tourists I’ve met so far.
After the landmark thawing of relations between Cuba and the United States that began in 2014, I believe my country will gradually open up to a wider range of opportunities. After decades of a strictly centrally planned economy closed off to most foreign investment, Cuba now has a nascent private sector, growing more every day, and foreign companies are investing on the island.
However, with Raul Castro’s impending retirement and renewed uncertainty in U.S.Cuban relations, very few Cubans know what to expect in the future. This uncertainty fuels my desire to learn more about entrepreneurship so as to help not only myself, but also my fellow Cubans, to show them how to run a business effectively and make it thrive. With the lack of entrepreneurial expertise and training opportunities available on the island, most of Cuba’s small business owners are forced to either wing it and hope for the best, or turn to friends abroad.
I would like to start my own small travel agency in the near future. Some friends and colleagues have talked about this because we are certain there is a large gap in the tourism market, which is still mostly state-run, but none of us have a clue how to grow a business. My friends and I are afraid that our window of opportunity in Cuba’s state-run tourism market will shrink as time passes by.
Being accepted into Golden Gate University’ s MBA Entrepreneurship Master’ s program has been a giant leap in turning this dream into reality. An MBA is a big challenge, but I am ready to take it up and make the very most of it.
I consider myself a hardworking person, thus I'm more than willing to work on and off campus. I don't want to just take from GGU, but to give as well. I would like to contribute by teaching the Spanish language and other skills I've learnt along the way. Additionally, I graduated in foreign languages, namely, Russian and French, so I could help with those, too.
Given Cuba’s recent popularity as a topic of conversation and a favorite travel destination in the States, I look forward to sharing my perspectives with the GGU community, perhaps hosting discussions about my country's current political and economic situation and my personal views about its future. Cubans and Americans have so much to share with each other, and we can’ t let politics get in the way of that.
Even though I have been accepted into Golden Gate University’s MBA spring cohort, GGU’s doors are not yet entirely open for me. There is a financial barrier that I need to overcome, but I cannot do it alone. If you knew me, you would have an idea of how difficult it is for me to write these words asking for your help. My loved ones have told me that my pride in this regard is my biggest fault. But sometimes there are goals in life that you simply cannot achieve on your own.
I love my country, and I am not looking to emigrate, but to expand my horizons, learn from the best, seek opportunities that are not currently available for me in my country, and bring those experiences home to enrich the lives of the people and country that I love. But that would not be all, with the knowledge I acquire at GGU, I am not only going to help my fellow Cubans but also help build bridges between the US and Cuba. In the future I could assist American leaders and entrepreneurs in opening market niches in my country.
I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this and considering supporting me and my fellow Cubans.
- Raymond Bissonnette
- Laurel Flyer
- Dean Sienko
#1 fundraising platform
More people start fundraisers on GoFundMe than on any other platform. Learn more
In the rare case something isn’t right, we will work with you to determine if misuse occurred. Learn more
Expert advice, 24/7
Contact us with your questions and we’ll answer, day or night. Learn more