CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - As the U.S works to normalize its relationship with Cuba, students from Southern Illinois University Carbondale have returned from a one week trip in the small socialist nation.
Twenty-nine students met with Cuban professionals in the fields of law, medicine, education and more. University Honors program and law students participated in the trip.
Assistant Director of the SIU Honors program Dr. Melinda Yeomans, PhD, said it was an all encompassing learning experience and exchange of culture.
"They were received as ambassadors and they did an impeccable job representing both SIU and the United States," Yeomans said.
President Barack Obama has been working to improve diplomatic relations with Cuba since taking office. The President has pushed for removing U.S. trade embargoes and travel restrictions, still talks continue.
Kyle Whittington is a SIU senior studying Pre-Med and Biological Science who attended the trip. He said the Cuban people showed a real want to work with the United States.
"I think they want the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba for the tourism, the business, and the trade, everything," Whittington said.
The Elkville, Illinois native said he learned a lot from his trip.
"When you go to a country that's not as, you know, privileged as the United States, you always come away with like a sense of appreciation for what you have," Whittington said.
For second year law student Sheena Hart, she felt welcomed.
"They wanted to share their culture with us, they wanted to show us how their systems work," Hart said. "As an American it was very interesting because the Cuban people, they open-armed welcomed us. They were very warm to us, they were excited that we were there."
Yeomans said she is hopeful that the program between SIU and Cuba will continue to grow.