On May 12, 2014, a group of fifteen students embarked on an educational journey through Italy as a part of a UK sponsored study abroad trip. The trip was led by Dr. Sandra Bastin, Chair and Extension Professor, and Bob Perry, Food Labs Coordinator and Chef in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition. The focus of the program was to gain an understanding of the relationship between food and community health. To fulfill this focus, the group followed the Italian food chain from farm to table, experiencing the diversity of old world history and culture in many locations of Italy. The group visited Florence, Rome, and the Tuscany region.
One of the many highlights from the trip included a visit to the Spannocchia Agricultural Estate in Siena. Spannocchia is a sustainable working farm and estate with the means to produce olive oil, Pecorino cheese, honey, salt-cured meats, heirloom vegetables and more. The group participated in a cooking class where they learned how to make a traditional Italian meal including spinach and avocado ravioli with sage butter sauce, bruschetta, pork roast and tiramisu. Sydney Hobbs, a dietetics student, described the visit to Spannocchia, “It was eye opening and interesting to see the many benefits of food sustainability.” Ambrazia Sublett, a human nutrition student, added, “It was peaceful and the food was all farm to table. It was some of the best food I had the whole trip.”
Additional trip highlights included visits to the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, Cinque Terre, Palatine Hill, Tivoli Gardens and a food tour in Rome. In Rome, the group stopped at a traditional farmer’s market to enjoy pastries, cappuccinos, Artisan wood fired pizza and gelato. Sublett described the Tivoli Gardens, “It was a place where you could just sit and relax all day.”
The students benefited from their experience in many ways. Hobbs mentioned an interest in learning more about the Mediterranean diet and stated, “I think it is important to experience all types of diets as a dietetics major.” Lauren Travis, a human nutrition student, added, “By visiting local markets in Italy, living on a farm that practices sustainable agriculture and experiencing authentic Italian cuisine firsthand, I received a better understanding of the Mediterranean diet and how beneficial it can be.”
In addition to learning about the Mediterranean diet and farm to table process, students shared their experiences of establishing deeper connections with others who share similar interests. Travis shared, “I really enjoyed getting to know Dr. Bastin and Chef Bob better, as well as making many new friends.” Sublett added, “I made a new group of friends and some I feel will be friends for a lifetime.”
Study abroad opportunities can provide students with new experiences in their fields of study. By spending a few weeks in foreign regions, students have the ability to learn about different cultures and practices. Hobbs recommends that others participate in similar experiences, “It opens your eyes to how other people do things differently, and it makes you question which way is the better way.”
By Joanne Hellmann, Communications Assistant