Hannah Burwell and Joseph Ruck travel Italy to understand sustainability concepts that can be used in the Hospitality and Food industries.
25 November 2015
PERUGIA, Italy— Sustainability is an increasingly popular and ever-more important element of campus life at the University of Denver according to Hannah Burwell and Joseph (Joe) Ruck, two DU students currently enrolled in the Food & Sustainability Studies Program at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, Italy. In fact, when asked to describe his decision to study food and sustainability at Umbra, Joe recalls partaking in a DU environmental science course that really pushed him to see the world through a different perspective and inspired a deeper interest in sustainability that eventually lead him to Italy. Hannah described a similar fascination with sustainability and the desire to go beyond organic, to understand the reality behind sustainable businesses in the food industry and be able to pass that knowledge on to those at home.
In Italy, Joe and Hannah have visited local organic and synergistic farms, participated in tasting events surrounding various levels of culinary excellence, and they have toured industrialized prosciutto, balsamic vinegar, and cheese producers in Parma and Modena, Italy. They describe Umbra’s Food & Sustainability Studies courses as being very hands-on with the goal of providing students with real-life experience that takes their mind beyond the classroom and “outside the box”. “It is very different from a traditional classroom,” says Hannah. This past weekend, after having toured a prosciutto factory in northern Italy, Hannah described her experience saying, “I didn’t exactly love having thousands of dead legs around me, but I felt like I learned a lot being there. I learned about how these are industrial places yet there is so much individual attention to the whole process.”
As they are nearing the end of their semester at the Umbra Institute, Hannah and Joe are left with the desire to learn more and to continue their sustainability studies back home at DU. Hannah describes being conscious of every bit of food she throws away and describes watching food be unnecessarily wasted as “painful”. “Coming here, to Italy, we have experienced what it’s like to be a lot more sustainable. Since I am taking these classes, I am much more aware and I won’t be wasting as much food in the U.S.,” says Joe as he motions to Hannah and adds, “I wouldn’t say it [coming to Perugia] was necessary for our Major, but it was necessary for our career. It is very important to realize our responsibility as people in the hospitality industry”.
“Perugia is simply a magical place. If you want to study abroad in New York City, you can go to Rome. If you want to study abroad in San Francisco, you can go to Florence. But if you want to truly study in an Italian culture where you are immersed in that culture, Perugia is the place to be,” says Joe as he shares how his time in Italy has motivated him and moved him to take responsibility for a more sustainable lifestyle. “It’s like you come out of this really dark, enclosed den and when you get to Perugia, it shapes your mind so that you go back thinking differently.”
About the Food & Sustainability Studies Program:
The Food & Sustainability Studies Program is an interdisciplinary curricular concentration at the Umbra Institute, an American study abroad program located in the central Italian city of Perugia. Often called a “big university town in a small Italian city,” Perugia is the ideal setting to study abroad in Italy, with fine arts, business, and liberal arts courses. For more information about the Umbra Institute or its Food & Sustainability Studies Program, contact the associate director of the Program, Zachary Nowak (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also watch a short overview of the Food & Sustainability Studies Program on YouTube.