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Student’s Voice: Food For Thought

As Umbra’s spring semester is winding down, we asked several students to reflect on their study abroad experiences in Perugia. Ashley Patino, an alumna of Virginia Commonwealth University and a participant in Umbra’s Food Studies Program shared the following with us. This is the first in a special, three-part mini blog series.


IMG_1352After hitting a point of transition at home (and having experienced Perugia once before), I sought out another reason to return. I found the Food Studies Program. It was almost insulting to not have heard of it sooner; everything it includes seems too good to be true. For those interested, or even mildly curious about gastronomy, the Food Studies Program offers a way to go beyond yourself.

Through food, thousands of miles away from home, one can dive further to another time and space. Dario Cecchini’s lardo, for example, smeared on crostini and tasting so rich and prizing against the backdrop of another day of serenity in Tuscany… Prof. Elisa Ascione sheds enlightenment on the evolution of lardo, how it has come from a working-man’s calorie pack to a snack of protected origin and artisanry.

Aside from the field trips and feasts,  the best part is having exciting professors who each have their own personality and expertise. They make the program; presenting students with a parabolic perspective of food, approaching food from dieting habits and agriculture through time to today’s instability and business markets. All of this is within an environment that encourages learning not just from the professors, but also from each other. There is something really special about being in a group that is conscious of the stories food has to confess. Meeting members of the community, going into their kitchens, sharing their lives- is unforgettable.

The best experiences change your point of view, teach old things, and inspire new things. The Food Studies Program is one of those experiences and I have no regrets.

I mean, am I allowed to be jealous of myself?

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