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What the Food and Sustainability Studies Program Means to Me

By Ashley Palmer, Fall 2018 Umbra Rep

And so we sat down once again, together— this time not as strangers, but rather as friends. It seems like just yesterday, this fall’s Food and Sustainability Studies Program students first gathered at our welcome dinner at the start of the semester. At that dinner, we sat down with not only open stomachs, but also open minds. We were hungry for the Italian cuisine we had heard so much about and for the adventure that was yet to come. I remember being so excited for the semester ahead of me, the people I would meet, the foods I would eat, the places I would go, and for the things I would learn along the way. I looked around the large table, at the unfamiliar faces around me, and wondered what I would learn by the end of the next four months.

I first heard about the Food and Sustainability Studies Program by way of a study abroad fair at my home institution, Endicott College. I had already had my heart set on going to Perugia, to the Umbra Institute, but I was undecided as to what classes I should take. I got back to my dorm room and eagerly leafed through the pamphlet I received, quickly deciding to partake in the program. Looking back on that day, I am so grateful because this program has made my study abroad experience truly unique. Over the course of this semester, I have gained a new perspective on food and culture in Italy. Through community engagement, traveling, anthropological interviews, and workshops, my education was both extraordinary and surprising. History, food, anthropology, and sustainability are a few broad topics to describe what I have learned, as there has been so much more. With my education inside and outside the classroom, I achieved an understanding about not only the past of Italy, but the present as well. During my time here, I have learned about the Italian people of today, and the meaningfulness behind their culture.

Last night at the final dinner of the program, I sat down with new knowledge and new memories. I learned so much more than I anticipated, and I got to see so many amazing things along the way. I and the ten other students in the program became closer throughout our time in the classroom and in our travels throughout Italy. Together, we ate fresh grapes in the vineyards of Tuscany, tasted traditional balsamic vinegar older than we are, harvested olives in a sustainable garden, and recreated ancient recipes— just to name a few interesting things from our extensive list of adventures. With our new-gained knowledge, we acquired an appreciation for the beautiful country of Italy, and the culture it proudly shared with us. Although it is bittersweet looking back on when we began and how quickly the time passed, I am happy with the decision to partake in the Food and Sustainability Studies Program at the Umbra Institute. Last night, we talked like it was any other day together, but we reflected on how much had changed since the first time we sat down with each other for a meal. This time, at then end of the night, we walked out with full stomachs and minds— leaving with an experience we will never forget.


To learn more about Food & Sustainability Studies at the Umbra Institute, click here.


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