ISSEM 2019


This blog post covers the daily tidbits of my two-week summer school in Havana and hopefully it is helpful for future participants. It was an incredible experience and we all deeply enjoyed our Cuba times. It brought me more than what I had expected: international friendship and new life perspectives. 

Day 0 Before the Trip

Accommodation - Casa or Hotel?

Hotels in Havana are not cheap considering the facilities and services they offer. In my opinion, the advantage of a hotel is three points:

• People speak English.
• Internet access in the lobby (you need to buy an internet card. The costs are 1.5 CUC - 2 CUC per hour).
• Booking for a long-distance trip is possible and easy.

• Casa

Casa with this sign means you can rent a room here

😃It is highly recommended to stay in Casas because they are much cheaper than hotels and most hosts are very warm-hearted, treating you as one of their family members. Some Casas offers laundry service, but you need to ask.

😫It could happen that you might have the wrong expectation of the room based on the advertising photos and you already paid for 2 weeks. Some hosts cannot speak English.


Ask the students from the previous year about their Casa experience, then make your decision on whether you want to stay in the same Casa for your whole summer school or just book it for the short-term. The quality of the Casas varies. If you want to find a new Casa, you can book for a 3-day stay and visit some other local Casas, bargain with the hosts, then decide a place you want to settle down.

Known Nice Casas:

During the whole summer school, I have stayed with the whole team in Casa Mirador la Colina. It locates next to the Havana University and the Napoleon Museum (e/Neptuno y San Miguel, Vedado La Habana). This is a nice and clean Casa with lovely people, which makes me feel like my own home. This Casa normally is booked by the ISSEM Team during the summer school for the regular daily meetings as well as an emergency contact base camp. For this reason, you might not be able to book it during summer school, but it is an ideal alternative if you want to visit Havana later.

Casa Mirador la Colina

Casa Centro is a nice and cozy place for a long-term stay. The host speaks both English and German. 

Airbnb, and TripAdvisor are helpful for finding a place to stay. Alternatively, you also can try casahavanaparticular.

Day 1 On the Way and Arrival (12/09/2019)

Flight with AirFrance. 

Air France offers ice cream! Lecker! They even offer mini cocktails with 12° vol!

Currency Exchange and Taxi to the Casa

I am very lucky to share the same flight with Vincent and Vivian, another two Humboldt students. It took us more than an hour going through passport control and getting our luggage. Then we spend 30 mins changing money. I have changed 200€ → 212.46 CUC. Later I learned that I should not change so much at the airport because of bad exchange rates. We shared 35 CUC taxi fees. At 23:00 we were finally on our way to CASA. From the Airport to Vedado, Havana felt much more developed than I expected.

Plaza de la Revolución at night

You only need to change 50-100€ at the airport.

Normally the exchange rate in the city is better than the airport. If you don't need to pay for your accommodation immediately upon arrival, 50€-100€ equivalent of the convertible peso (CUC) is fully enough for your first and second days in Havana. CUC is the only Cuban currency you can get at the airport. Another Cuban currency is the national currency (CUP) which you can only get in the currency exchanges in the city (Passport/Copy of the passport is necessary). As of writing, 1 CUC = 26.5 CUP. 

Taxi: try to share. 20-30 CUC/cab. Bargain with the Taxi driver.

If you speak Spanish, it might increase your bargaining power, but it's not 100 percent guarantee. Some people have suggested that if you think the price from one driver is too high, you can go to the next. There are always taxis waiting in front of the airport, so you don't need to worry about at midnight nobody drives you to your Hotel/Casa. The good thing is that for the return trip to the airport, you don’t need to pay as much as going into the city, since there are more cheap alternatives available in the city.

Arrival at the Casa

A very nice Italian gentleman greeted me at 23:30. He is the only person still awake at that time. He is not the owner but waited for me, so kind! Buenas noches is my first Spanish sentence learned in Havana.

Casa Mirador la Colina is a very safe and place to stay in Havana. It is far better than I expected, just 20 meters from University Havana, which has unbelievable gorgeous architecture. Amazing! On the first night, I just feel I am home.

Day 2 A Day Trip with Helena (13/09/2019)

Waking up around 7:00 am, I met Helena from our team, who was already waiting for her breakfast in the balcony. After brief introductions, she suggested to walk around the city and familiarize ourselves with the neighborhoods so to better work and help our fellow students. I also need to memorize the location of some important venues, as Cuba does not have good internet coverage, and there are temporary photo assignments that require me to show up as soon as possible.


Monday is the first day of registration for both Cuban alumni and German students, but our preparation for the summer school has started already. First task: printing. It is not convenient in Cuba so most of the documents were printed and carried from Germany. For the rest, Helena and I went to a copy shop next to Havana University, which represents other copy shops well: simple equipment, basic printing quality.

Helena suggested we make a copy of the passport so we don’t need to carry the originals all the time. For instance, it is sufficient to exchange money at the bank using just the copy. I strongly recommend everyone do this, as there have been cases that students got stolen and lost their passports.

The Copyshop near to the Havana University

The road in Havana is not difficult to find. You will find in the road sign on the ground at the main corner like this:

A Road Sign in Havana

I have a bad sense of direction. In Cuba, I still relied heavily on offline maps (App: OsmAnd). The road sign just confirmed that I am standing on the right path.

After walking for hours, Helena suggested we should try some local juice offered by the street cafeteria. A glass of Mango juice cost only 5 CUP (≈ 0.20 €)

CUP Pricing

Afterward, Helena showed me a nice place to enjoy the internet -- Hotel Capri (Address: between street 21 and street N). In Havana, I prefer to use the Internet in the following Hotel, I know that some students also use the Internet in specific parks. No matter where you prefer to surf the web, an internet card is necessary.

The Internet Card

1. Hotel Habana Libre (2 CUC/ hour, no need to consume anything, sometimes no air-condition)
2. Hotel Capri  (1.5 CUC/hour, need to consume something, always has air condition)
3. Parks (1 CUC/hour)

The Two Hotels I access the Internet most

It is safer to use the internet inside the hotel for accessing bank accounts or using an expensive laptop. 

We spend some hours in the Hotel Capri for work. Afterwards, Helena brought me to a fantastic restaurant, which became one of my favorite restaurants in Havana.

Luque Comida Italiana
Calle J 460 e/ 21 y 23

Before sunset, we decide to walk to the Habana Vieja (Old town of Havana). The old town is full of hundreds of very old buildings but not many people on the street, a shocking scene for me to see such a dense amount of historical architecture. 

"The 1982 decision by the Republic of Cuba to nominate La Habana Vieja, or Old Havana® to be inscribed on the list of cultural sites protected under the World Heritage Convention followed the development of a protective legal regime under Cuban national law over many decades."

There might be no other country in the world that could have done such a good job protecting the cultural relics despite insufficient funding and daily necessities.  Unfortunately, heavy rain fell on our halfway in Habana Vieja and we had to take a taxi back. We took a very old classic taxi, thought it was cheaper on sunny days, but the driver raised the price to 8 CUC for 3 km. We could only accept it as all drivers raised prices in the heavy rain and it did not seem to stop soon.

On the way to the Habana Vieja

Day 3 Alexander Humboldt 250 Years (14/09/2019)

Alexander von Humboldt (1769 - 1859) is often referred to as the 'second discoverer' of Cuba. In the early 1800s, he collected and discovered scientific and botanical data across Cuba and other Latin American countries. 2019 is his 250 birthday as well as the Habana 500 years birthday. Today there will be a conference about Humbolt and America take place in the Museo Casa Alejandro de Humboldt.

Yesterday due to the heavy rain we didn't reach Habana Vieja, fortunately, today I  made it since Casa Humbolt locates just in the Habana Vieja.

Habana Vieja

Among attendees to the conference are Prof. Dr. iur. Eva Inés Obergfell, the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Humboldt-Universität, and ambassadress Heidrun Tempel. Many prestigious Cuban scientists and researchers have presented their research results.

Vice President Prof. Dr. iur. Eva Inés Obergfell and Managing Director of WIWEX Dr. Jan Hansen 

Alexander Humboldt is very important to the Cuban people: He is the first to document some important facts of Cuba after Columbus set foot on it, earning him the name “the second discoverer of Cuba”, and today’s conference is all about his discoveries and research. One Cuban told me a story that Alexander predicted the existence of chrysoprase, a rare gemstone only found in 8 countries. After 200 years, his prediction came true as the Cubans actually found chrysoprase in Havana.


Day 4 Registration for Cuba Alumni and German Students (15/09/2019)

This summer school was mainly attended by local Cuban university students and alumni who had studied in Germany, as well as German students. There is a supporting team coordinated by students from both countries to ensure the summer school moving smoothly. It was a great team and a lot of great effort!

Prepare for the summer school

We had our first big team meeting at 10:00 am to kick-start the preparation for the ISSEM. In the next two weeks, alumni events and the summer school are held in parallel.

Preparing for the ISSEM2019

Registration for Students of the ISSEM2019

Registration starts at 14:30 for alumni and an hour later for German students at Hotel Habana Libre. Useful information like student guides, event plans, and course descriptions are distributed to everyone.

Registrations for the alumni

Course inscription for the students

Day 5 Opening Ceremony of ISSEM 2019 (16/09/2019)

Aula Magna, Habana University

Aula Magna, Habana University

The opening ceremony took place at Aula Magna in the Havana University. A gorgeous and solemn auditorium with delicate paintings. Inside Havana University scatters some amazing architectures, which could be counted as top Architectures in Havana.

The whole opening ceremony lasted around one hour with both alumni and students invited.

At the end of the ceremony, Prof. Dr. iur. Eva Inés Obergfell, the Vice President of Humboldt University, presented Havana University a sculpture of Alexander Humboldt as a gift on behalf of Humboldt University.

After the opening ceremony, the summer school starts immediately with our first lecture. Lectures took place in two different buildings: Hotel Habana Libre and The Economic and Finance Faculty. They are not far away from each other. Theoretically, you can choose max 2 courses since each occupied half a day. I have chosen Panel Data and Marketing Research. We had the opportunity of having courses offered by Professors from other universities together with Cuban students. I was very impressed by the hard-working and teamwork of local students, they might not understand everything immediately, but they keep asking questions and help each other to understand. They have tried so hard to learn things.

Havana University

Two places of classes

Prof. and students meeting

At 18:30 was the professors-students meeting. All the professors and their tutors introduced themselves as well as what to expect from their courses. Each course had two tutors, one for all students and one Cuban tutor for local students. Besides, we also got some general information about the whole summer school. After the meeting we went to Melacón, one of the most famous places next to the see in Havana, enjoyed our first culture night. We had rum, music and nice people.

Melacón in the daytime

Leaning by Doing

This summer school offered 13 courses. Some courses were designed only for bachelors, but the majority were open for all the students. Most courses were quite hands-on, e.g. we needed to carry out interviews on the street or collect data ourselves.

Design Thinking

Management Simulation

Panel Data Econometrics

Marketing Theories & Research

Group study

Different Culture Nights

Day 6 Salsa Night (17/09/2019)

Each day during the summer school we had some cultural events, which varied from day-to-day. Salsa night was one of the favorable event highlights. We had the chance to learn and to practice with Cubans, who are dancers inborn.

Day 7 Movie Night (18/09/2019)

The movie we have watched named <<Die Vermessung der Welt>>. It is a collection of stories about the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss and the German geographer Alexander von Humboldt—who was accompanied on his journeys by French explorer Aimé Bonpland—and their many groundbreaking ways of taking the world's measure, as well as Humboldt's and Bonpland's travels in America and their meeting in 1828.

Day 8 Team Dinner (19/09/2019)

Together with the whole team, we went to Belview, a very special restaurant in Havana. This restaurant is run by a German photographer, so you can see photos and cameras everywhere decorating his restaurant. I love this place so much, especially the displayed photos, they are super authentic and moving, captured by him and other famous photographers.

The food was very tasty. The atmosphere was also nice and comfortable.

Day 9 ISSEM Party (20/09/2019)

Unfortunately, I didn't feel very fit for the party and had to skip.
On the next day, I was told that I missed a lot of fun.

Day 11 ICEM 2019 (22/09/2019)

The 14th International Conference in Economic and Management.

Day 13 Habana Vieja with Cuban Friends (22/09/2019)

The first weekend I went out to explore the famous Habana Vieja with two Cuban Friends: Cynthia and Lorena.

Day 15 La Plaza de Revolucion (24/09/2019)

The courses in the summer school were quite intensive. Sometimes I had photography works at night, so I didn't find a chance to visit La Plaza de Revolucion. Today after class I have some time, so I just grabbed my camera and walked to the place. 

There are very few people along the way, and it was a half-hour walk. The square was huge with few people, four classic cars painted in bright colors stopping there to attract tourists. The facade of the interior ministry portraits Castro and Che Guevara.  The huge tower standing on the square is in memory of another national hero: José Martí. This is the tallest building in Cuba. 

Day 16 Jan's Birthday Party (25/09/2019)

I was invited to Jan's Birthday. It was an amazing night. We managed to pull off a big party with so many people and created a big surprise for Jan. The most special part, he celebrated it with his family together in Cuba. Happy Birthday, Jan!

Day 16 After Class at Restaurant-Bar Polinesio (26/09/2019)

The summer school is nearing to the end. For each class, we have some budget for everyone to have a drink at Polinesio, an Africa style bar in the Hotel Habana Libre. It was such a nice afternoon sitting together with the professors and all the classmates.

Thanks to this summer school, we got the chance to know people from thousands of miles away and build international friendships.

Day 17 Closing Ceremony and Party (27/09/2019)

On the second Friday of the summer school, our lecture concluded. At 17:30, we had the closing ceremony in Salon Solidaridad in Hotel Habana Libre, where we received our attendance certificates of the summer school. How time flies!

Economic Integration

Development Economics

Financial Mathematics

Game Theory

Design Thinking & Applied Entrepreneurship

Marketing Theories and Research

Welfare Economics

Management Simulation

Policy Evaluation - Estimating Causal Effects in Economics

Panel Data Econometrics

Cuban Economics & Political Economy

Foundations of International Accounting

Blockchains and Crypto-Currencies

After the closing ceremony, we partied in a nice place next to the University.

When I look at the faces of these nice people, I cannot stop missing them. It was an incredible team during the whole summer school. We always supported each other when we had difficulties. As Gabi said, we didn't have a Cuban or a German part but a great and big family! I was very lucky to be part of this family.

Day 18 Mar Azul/ Playa Santa Maria(28/09/2019)

It was the last weekend for me in Cuba so I decided to go to the beach on Saturday, leaving Sunday for preparing for the exams on Monday. Due to a temporary petrol shortage in Havana, it was too expensive (it could cost over 150 CUC - 200 CUC instead of  30 - 80 CUC normally) to travel to Varadero, one of the most beautiful beaches in Cuba.

MarAzul is the name of the hotel on the beach. Local people usually call this beach by the name of the Hotel. If you need to find it on the map, you can search for Playa Santa Maria. Cynthia and Lorena told me, this beach is the most beautiful beach near Havana. We took a bus there, it costs 5 CUC for each person roundtrip.

There are no changing rooms on the beach, and the hotel only opens facilities to its guests, so it is better to have your swimsuits put on before visiting. With Lorena's help, we were able to use the toilet of a nearby restaurant for changing clothes. Another thing you should never forget is sun cream.

The beach was beautiful and not crowded, maybe we were too early. Cynthia and Lorena live very far from the city center, in order to catch the 9:00 bus, Lorena had to go out at 6:00 to pick me up and then together took a metro taxi (5 CUP) to the bus station.

price of the metro taxi in Havana

Day 20 Exams (30/09/2019)

My last two exams of the master were completed at the Hotel Habana Libre. The questions were not difficult for me and two exams took around 4 hours. After that, I went with some friends to a nice bar to have some drinks and enjoy my last night in Cuba.


Day 21 Necrópolis Ristóbal Colon (01/10/2019)

My flight was at night, so I spent the daytime on the highly recommended place by the lonely planet:  Colon Cemetery.

Colon Cemetery is one of the most important cemeteries in the world and is generally held to be one of the most important in Latin America in historical and architectural terms. Many influential Cubans are buried here.

In the afternoon, I went with three friends to a local restaurant, where I had very delicious and inexpensive Cuban foods.

Together with my great team in the Casa and the Owner Aymeé

It was time to say goodbye! 20 Days together with you in such a nice apartment have made the journey special and unforgettable.