A group of students and professors from Belmont University closely watched President Obama's visit to Cuba after two groups of business students visited Cuba in 2013 and 2015 as part of a study abroad program.
The students made the trip not knowing what to expect. "There's no place like Cuba." Jose Gonzalez, professor with the Belmont Business School, said. "You land in Cuba, and it's like you're landing in 1958."
According to Gonzalez, the streets of Havana are filled with old buildings and old cars, but the people themselves are filled with culture that they bring to life through dancing, art, and their way of life.
For professor Gonzalez's trips to Cuba with his students, they focused on the economic and business growth Cuba has experienced since the country allowed their people to open small businesses, and since the U.S. improved relations with the country.
"A year ago, we did sense this optimism and this hopefulness about these changes." Gonzalez said, adding that while some people both in Cuba and in the Untied States are hesitant about the U.S. improving relations with the island country, for the most part, people are ready for what lies ahead.
"The majority of folks think its time - are really excited about the possibilities from a business perspective of going and helping rebuild the island." Gonzalez explained. "The infrastructure there is in bad shape."
At this point, Gonzalez said Cuba does not have the infrastructure in place to support a large amount of tourists, and he hopes over the next few years or even decades, that tourism doesn't change the culture of Cuba.
"That's part of the challenge and part of the risk that we don't turn Cuba into a South Beach." Gonzalez said.
To learn more about the Belmont Students' trip to Cuba, you can visit their website.