Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 1.42.11 PM  My study abroad experience in Siena was, for lack of a less cliché description, life-changing. The Tuscan landscape was indescribably beautiful. The friends, both American and Italian, were some of the most genuine people I’ve ever encountered. The food was exquisite, and the cultural experiences were eye-opening. My academic experiences collided seamlessly with my cultural experiences abroad. My favorite class, Food and Culture of Italy taught by Suzanne W, is the perfect example of this collision.

First, Suzanne was the ideal teacher for this course because she too had been an American abroad years earlier. Suzanne has lived in Tuscany with her Italian husband for years. Though she has become fully integrated into Italian culture, she had originally studied abroad in Milan as an undergrad and was able to provide us with a unique perspective on learning about Italian culture.Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 1.43.16 PM

Food and Culture was my favorite class because the planned excursions for the class provided some of the most unique opportunities to learn about Italian culinary traditions. Some of these excursions included a trip to Brolio Castle where Chianti wine is produced, a trip to Spannocchia where the Cinta Senese pigs are raised to produce salumi, and a trip to a local olive grove to see olive oil being produced. Visiting Brolio Castle was fascinating because we were able to learn about both the history of the castle itself and the wine-production process. When we visited Spannocchia, we watched a video about industrial farming in the United States before we learned about the sustainable production processes Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 1.41.27 PMat the farm. (…) At the olive grove, we participated in an olive harvest before going to the olive press to see new olive oil being made. We were able to taste the final products at all of these locations, and after seeing how they were produced, we were able to better appreciate the gastronomic experiences.

The immersion opportunities in my Food and Culture class were essential to my academic experience in this course. Had I taken this class at the University of Oregon, I would have missed out on all of these excursions and would be lacking the cultural context necessary to truly understand the material presented in class. The hands on experiences and visual stimuli offered in this course made all of the knowledge that I acquired stay fresh much longer. I think back on these experiences and remember what I learned from each them with a fondness that cannot be replicated with the use of a textbook.

– Madison Shepard, Food and Culture in Siena