PERUGIA, Italy – Ohio Wesleyan professor Dr. Christopher Fink has been teaching OWU students in Perugia, Italy, that food (especially in Italy) is more than just a meal. Fink and OWU Dean of Students Dr. Kimberlie Goldsberry recently returned from Italy with a group of eight OWU students for the two-week travel learning component to the course titled A Qualitative Investigation of Food Philosophies and Traditions.
The course (which began in Delaware in January) focused on developing qualitative, ethnographic research skills. Fink developed and instructed the course, and Goldsberry supported the class throughout the semester and accompanied the group during their travel. Throughout the semester in Ohio, students observed markets and collected stories of oral food traditions from local older adults, then continued their work in Italy. While their trip included a number of stops around the Italian peninsula, the students rounded out their experience at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, whose interdisciplinary Food Studies Program has hosted important scholars in the field like Fink over the past two years.
Students were able to experience, first-hand, the cultural importance of Italian food traditions including olive oil and cheese production, and to contrast their market observations in the U.S. with parallel sites in Italy. Key to the entire experience was the opportunity to interact with everyday life in Italy, made possible by speaking directly with food producers, market vendors, and citizen shoppers in each of the cities the class visited.
OWU student Sara Scinto said the following about her experience: “By taking this class I’ve been able to experience things I would have never been able to if I came to Italy on my own. We’re living what we’ve studied.”
Professor Fink agreed: “I think that the students really saw the Theory into Practice concept at work during our time in Italy, and specifically in Perugia. The field validation of our course concepts was really invaluable to reinforce the complex nature of food, culture, and tradition.”
About the Umbra Institute:
The Umbra Institute is an American study abroad program located in the central Italian city of Perugia. Often called a “big university town in a small Italian city,” Perugia is the ideal setting for studying fine arts, business, and liberal arts courses. See the Institute’s website for more information about its Food Studies Program. You can also watch a short overview of the Program on YouTube.