PERUGIA, Italy — Sam Vieira was looking for the chance to study abroad and gain an authentic experience without disrupting her studies in nursing. She liked the Umbra Institute, an American study abroad program in Perugia, Italy, because it offered her the chance to have an authentic experience that fit in her degree program. Not wanting to be a tourist in cities like Rome or Florence, she looked for a small town where she could wander the streets and feel at home.
During her time at Umbra, Sam is enrolled in HSIT 349: History & Culture of Food in Italy. The course is structured to use food and food culture as a basis for the development of a more sophisticated understanding of how historical events are shaped by a combination of economic, political, social, and cultural factors. The course examines the influence of migrant communities, social identities, and the economic effects of industrialization, as they relate to both modern and historic food systems.
Sam’s experience with HSIT 349 has given her the opportunity to learn something new outside of her major. As a result, she has had the freedom to delve deeper into classroom discussions and experiential learning. One of the most impactful moments for her thus far at Umbra was when the class went on a field trip to see how cheese was made. This excursion caused her to “look at cultures a little bit differently” because, prior to this experience, she bought cheese without giving much thought to through which production process or from where it historically came. In watching the cheese maker use older, more traditional methods, she came to appreciate the effort that goes into something that is seemingly so simple and frequently consumed.
Sam’s future studies will include accounting and this particular experience gave her the chance to speak with the owner of the farm and see a different side of the field because “he spoke to us about his business and I got to thinking that this is what I’ll be doing.” She was able to bridge connections between producers and consumers and apply that knowledge to her own life.
With this chapter of her life in Perugia coming to an end, she looked back at her decision to study abroad at the Umbra Institute, having fulfilled her goals. “If you really want an authentic experience, come here! I took a class outside of my major and I do recommend other people doing that as well because I feel like I learned so much,” concluded Sam, referring to how interdisciplinary and intercultural education is important for any major.