In 2011, after 8 years of travel ban, President Obama relaxed the travel restrictions for US citizens to Cuba and allowed for certain types of travel including academic, research and cultural ‘people-to-people’ visits. 
For those interested in learning more about legal travel to Cuba, the ‘Comprehensive Guidelines for License Applications for Travel-relatedTransactions Involving Cuba’ can be found at the U.S. Department of the Treasury website. 
From my own experience on our academic exchange trip to Cuba, I know that I never would have begun to understand the reality of the Cuban situation without witnessing and experiencing Cuba first hand. From my short 2 week visit, I cannot say that I was able to comprehend all the complexities of Cuban reality, yet I am better equipped, with this first-hand experience, to understand Cuba, its people, culture and history, and the transformations the country is experiencing today and share those realities with others back home. Maybe more people will be able and interested enough to take their own cultural exchange visit to Cuba, and experience the amazement of the island for themselves.
 Alzugaray, Carlos, et al. "Retreat From Reason: U.S.-Cuban Academic Relations and the Bush Administration." The Latin America Working Group Education Fund (September 2006): Web. Jul 2013. http://www.lawg.org/storage/documents/retreat%20from%20reason.pdf. Martinez Reinosa, Milagros. "Cuba and the United States: New Opportunities for Academic Diplomacy." LASA Forum Spring XLII.2 (2011): 4-6. Web. "COMPREHENSIVE GUIDELINES FOR LICENSE APPLICATIONS TO ENGAGE IN TRAVEL-RELATED TRANSACTIONS INVOLVING CUBA."Www.treasury.gov. OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, 10 May 2012. Web. Aug. 2013. http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_tr_app.pdf.