OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students will travel in May to experience the culture and cuisine of Florence, Italy, through the school's Study Abroad program.
Laurel Lambert, UM associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management, will travel for her fourth year with students to Florence to facilitate the course titled, "Exploring Florence: Culture and Cuisine". This course offers students six credit hours for NHM 468 or NHM 595 and focuses on food in the context of Italian culture and hospitality as it relates to lodging and tourism. This is the sixth year for the course to be offered.
"For two weeks, students travel to Florence and have amazing experiences everyday with different activities that expose students to foods and their regions," Lambert said. "It is especially educational for students because the Study Abroad Italy organization, based in Florence, has all the connections and are able to teach us things about places that most people wouldn't know of if they were only vacationing."
Lambert teaches Principles of Food Preparation, which teaches students the science of cooking and foods at UM. She said that traveling to different vineyards and visiting with cheese, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil producers in Florence allows students to not only see processes and foods they have learned about in her class, but actually try them.
"In Florence, students really get a sense of the passion Italians have for their food," Lambert said. "One of my most favorite things is to see the students understanding that food doesn't just come in a box to be prepared. Italians live it. It is part of who they are."
Some of the food-related activities students participate in while abroad are olive oil tastings, wine tastings and pairings, and cooking classes at different vineyards and at the Apicius International School of Hospitality. They also visit cheese factories, balsamic vinegar production sites, local markets, historic restaurants, and an elementary school cafeteria.
Students also go on tours around Florence including tours of artisans, castles, hotels, and the world-famous Uffizi Museum.
Lambert said both the food and culture related activities organized for students are led by local and world famous instructors and guides who are respected and well-educated.
"The quality of instruction that Study Abroad Italy provides is amazing," Lambert said. "I'm very thankful, and I've been able to learn a lot."
Lambert said she has seen how experiencing the study abroad program has made an impact on students' confidence while traveling the world. At the end of the course, some of the students who traveled with her last year decided to stay in Europe together for a few more weeks to continue exploring. She said she enjoys seeing how friendships develop among students over the two-week course.
"When the 12 students first get together, hardly any of them know each other," Lambert said. "By the end, they're just like best friends."
Caroline Crunk, a senior hospitality management student from Brentwood, Tennessee, traveled to Florence last summer with Lambert and 11 other students. Crunk said her favorite part of the trip was visiting vineyards and learning how to make Italian cuisine.
"My favorite part of the trip was going to a vineyard in Tuscany," Crunk said. "It was the most beautiful view I've ever seen, and it was so much fun learning how to make tiramisu and gnocchi."
All spots for the Study Abroad trip to Italy have been filled this year. However, the course will be offered in future semesters. For more information on studying abroad, visit studyabroad.olemiss.edu/.