Michelle Ranieri says that she is living her dream. A recent graduate of college, she is now living and working in the warm Caribbean air as the Cuba Resident Director for the Institute for Study Abroad. As busy as she is making a difference in a foreign land, she was gracious enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to chat with us from Havana, Cuba and explain what her work and experience are like.
Ranieri went to SUNY New Paltz where she studied Anthropology with a double minor in Latin American and Black Studies. She kept busy at school with more than classes as she was also a lifeguard and a cheerleader at New Paltz. In the Fall of 2010 she took a life-changing journey as she went to Havana to Study Abroad at the Universidad de La Habana through SUNY Oswego’s program. Following her graduation from New Paltz in 2013 she went on to a Master’s program in Caribbean Studies at the University at Buffalo. She did grad work in Mérida Mexico, and archival research in Sevilla, Spain in 2012. These experiences let Ranieri know that she wanted to pursue a career in international education after grad school.
With her expansive education behind her, Ranieri was able to get her job working at the Institute for Study Abroad at Butler University. Now she’s in Havana helping students to adjust to their own study abroad experience. And that, she says, is the best part of the job. “My favorite part of my job is witnessing my study abroad students going through the various phases of acculturation in Cuba. It’s a fascinating place to live, study, and explore. I almost get to relive my study abroad experience through teaching my students about life in Havana.”
But her job is not without challenges. Raneiri says the hardest part of her job is all the waiting. “I am a very punctual person in the U.S. but in Cuba everything requires patience. I wait in line for almost everything, sometimes for hours and sometimes without success. There are lines for phone cards, Internet time, groceries and ice cream. One simple errand can turn into a half a day ordeal!”
In spite of the challenges, Raneiri is thrilled to be in Havana. And she hopes that future SUNY students are able to find their niche as well. Seeing as how SUNY recently made history in Cuba, that is a distinct future possibility. Her advice for these students?
“Take full advantage of what the SUNY system provides to students. Don’t confine yourself in just your campus, being a SUNY student means you get to learn and enjoy almost anything other campuses offer as well! Study abroad through a different campus if they have a country you want to visit, take summer classes at a SUNY campus near your home if you live in NY, network with fellow students and professors. That’s how I got my dream job!”
Kay is a student assistant with the SUNY Office of New Media. She is a University at Albany undergraduate working towards a double major in English and East Asian studies with a double minor in communications and film.