University of Vermont
Spring 16 Ambassador
Hi! My name is Gina Cassara, and I’m a Vermonter studying at the University of Vermont. I’m an Environmental Studies major with a double minor in Food Systems and French. I studied abroad both semesters of my junior year, one through an exchange program with a French university and one at the Umbra Institute.
While at Umbra, I was a member of the Food and Sustainability Studies Program, which included taking “History and Culture of Food in Italy,” “Anthropology of Food,” and “Sustainability and Food Production in Italy. The Umbra Institute is a wonderful community; the student body is small and it’s easy to make lasting friends, the staff is very friendly and helpful, and there are even events to help connect the students with the local Italians! For me, Perugia was the perfect size for a city (keep in mind that I’m from Vermont). It is small enough that I got to know local shopkeepers and could recognize some of the people walking around downtown, but it’s big enough that there was always lots to discover, as well as many festivals, markets, or other community events going on. Furthermore, it’s off the tourist track so that you feel truly immersed in authentic Italian culture — even more than I did on the immersion exchange program in France! It’s an experience I don’t think you would get in larger cities that are popular destinations, such as Florence or Rome. I loved getting to explore Europe as a whole during my time abroad, but I would also recommend taking time to really know the area that you’re living in!