A freshman’s guide to surviving Miami

Photo credit: Flickr.com, @oklanica

So, you’ve decided to move to Miami. You’ve registered for classes, added “UMiami ‘24” to your Instagram bio and bought everything in sight at Bed, Bath and Beyond’s “Back to School” sale. Now what?

First off, congratulations! Welcome to the ‘Canes family, and welcome to this beautiful city that will be your home for the next four years. But, buckle up—you’re in for the ride of your life.

Moving to a new city with all new people is already a lot to take in. Moving to one like Miami–a city characterized by its never-ending energy and festivities and a world-wide hub for cultural exchange–can be completely overwhelming. That is where we come in.

Here at UM, we have a saying that goes “’Canes Care for ‘Canes.” When we say we’re here to help, we mean it, and we are. So, we’ve compiled a beginner’s guide to two of the most defining aspects of our university and its surrounding areas: the Spanish language and Cuban food.

Of course, these are both things you will pick up further with experience––that’s part of the fun. But, having a place to start definitely makes the adjustment easier. Below you’ll find some basic Spanish phrases to help you navigate your first semester at the U and a list of the best Cuban restaurants in the area.

Enjoy, and Go ‘Canes!

43 Spanish words and phrases for when you…

Are saying hello or and making basic conversation:

¡Hola! – Hello

¡Buenos días! – Good morning!

¡Buenas tardes! – Good evening!

¿Cómo te llamas? – What is your name?

Me llamo… – My name is…

¿Cómo estás? – How are you?

Are ordering or dining out:

Una mesa para dos, tres, cuatro… – A table for two, three, four…

Por favor – Please

Soy vegetariano(a). – I am a vegetarian.

No como… – I don’t eat…

Salud! – Cheers!

Me gustaría… – I would like…

¿Qué recomiendas? – What do you recommend?

Quisiera la cuenta, por favor. – I would like the check, please.

Are lost or confused:

Estoy perdido – I’m lost

¿Dónde está…? – Where is…?

  • El baño – The bathroom
  • La estación de autobuses – The bus station
  • El tren – The train
  • El restaurante – The restaurant
  • El aeropuerto – The Airport
  • El supermercado – The grocery store

¿Dónde puedo encontrar a alguien que hable inglés? – Where can I find someone who speaks English?

Have an Uber driver who seems lost or confused:

A la derecha – To the right

A la izquierda – To the left

Derecho – Straight ahead

En la esquina – At the corner

Have literally no idea what’s going on or just need clarification:

¿Qué? – What?

¿Puede ayudarme? – Can you help me?

¿Puede repetirlo? – Can you say that again?

No entiendo. – I don’t understand.

No hablo español. – I don’t speak Spanish.

¿Puedes hablar más despacio? – Can you speak more slowly?

¿Qué significa …? – What does … mean?

Are saying goodbye:

Adiós – Goodbye

¡Buenas noches! – Goodnight!

¡Hasta luego! – See you later!


Sí – Yes

No – No

Claro – Of course

Nunca – Never

No se preocupe – Don’t worry (about it)

¡Lo siento! – Sorry!

Perdón – Excuse me

¡De nada! – You’re welcome!

¿Dónde está el baño? – Where is the bathroom?

¿Cuánto cuesta? – How much does it cost?

No se preocupe. – Don’t worry (about it).

¿Qué hora es? – What time is it?


Photo credit: Flickr.com, @oklanica

Nicknamed “Little Cuba” for a reason, one of the best ways to experience the rich culture which encapsulates the city of Miami is through food. While there are a plethora of Cuban restaurants on every corner, some are undoubtedly better than others.

Here are our favorites for Cuban food and their tasty desserts:

Happy Vegan Bakers’ Café

2800 W 84th St., Hialeah Gardens

Open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, closed Wednesdays

@happyveganbakers on Instagram

Open for both breakfast and lunch, Happy Vegan Bakers’ Café is a woman-owned, Miami-based business that prides itself on their vegan pastelitos and– as their slogan claims– providing “the vegan version of everything you love to eat.”

Havana Harry’s

Fried rice seafood tower
Fried rice seafood tower Photo credit: @havanaharrys on Instagram

4612 S Le Jeune Rd.

Open Sunday-Thursday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

@havanaharrys on Instagram

Open for lunch, dinner and late-night dining, Havana Harry’s has been one of Miami’s premier Cuban-American fusion restaurants since 1995. Their extensive menu offers everything from pasta to sandwiches to seafood, and, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the restaurant has begun offering both take out and delivery.

La Palma

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons via Tim Lucas

6091 SW 8th St.

Open 24 hours

When the weather drops below the typical trend of intense heat and humidity, true Miamians know La Palma is the place to go. Known for their churros and hot chocolate, La Palma has been serving up smiles and tasty treat to locals and visitors alike for the past 32 years.

Pinecrest Bakery

1144 SW 67th Ave.

Open 24 hours

@pinecrestbakery on Instagram

With almost 20 locations sprinkled throughout the greater Miami area and recently expanding into the restaurant industry under the name “Pinecrest Restaurant and Bar,” Pinecrest Bakery serves everything from pastelitos to pizza. The bakery offers homestyle food in generous portions, now available through contactless delivery on Ubereats, Doordash, Grubhub and Postmates.


Photo credit: Flickr.com, @jpellgen

3555 SW 8th St.

Monday-Thursday 8 a.m. to 1 a.m., Friday-Saturday 8 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-1 a.m.

@versaillesmiami on Instagram

Priding itself on being “the world’s most famous Cuban restaurant,” Versailles has been serving South Florida since 1971. With large menus for both lunch and dinner, this restaurant offers individual meals along with family specials and a full-service bar and is often the first stop for both local and national public figures.