My Time in Italy

Over the last few days of my pro­gram, I began to feel the approach of win­ter arriv­ing in Rome. The wind chilled my face as I crossed the Tiber River and the lush veg­eta­bles of the autumn har­vest began to grad­u­ally lose their bril­liance as a shift in the sea­sons began. With the pro­gram com­ing to an end, I began to reflect on my time in Italy that has led to such a cul­tur­ally enrich­ing expe­ri­ence. As I have spent the past two months trav­el­ing across Italy, my time abroad has cul­mi­nated into an under­stand­ing that has not only changed my per­spec­tive on food, but my life for­ever. While our topic of study had ranged from the polit­i­cal, socioe­co­nomic, and cul­tural fac­tors of Italy’s food and global food pol­icy as a whole, I was able to pull much more out of the pro­gram than solely what was taught in the cur­ricu­lum.
By spend­ing time in the north­ern, cen­tral, and south­ern regions of Italy, work­ing on farms, vis­it­ing inter­na­tional food con­fer­ences, and indulging in some of the best foods Rome has to offer, I have learned a new way of liv­ing and learn­ing. Each of these expe­ri­ences and the many more that I par­took in around Italy has given me a rich rebirth in my pas­sion for food. As I resided in Rome, I was fully immersed in nearly all aspects of Ital­ian cul­ture. In the morn­ings, I vis­ited my favorite cof­fee bar for a Cap­puc­cino and Cor­netto (Ital­ian style crois­sant), I took long lunch hours to sit and eat with friends, and most impor­tantly I respected the sense of com­mu­nity that the Ital­ians value through food. The Ital­ians have such a sen­si­ble approach to liv­ing in my opin­ion as they value not only the qual­ity of the food they eat, where it comes from, but also the peo­ple with who they share it with. By wit­ness­ing their “cul­ture of the table” and liv­ing in their life style I am eager to share my expe­ri­ences from Italy with my friends back home.
As the pro­gram is end­ing, both my pro­fes­sor and peers are already plan­ning on how we are going to take our expe­ri­ences in Italy and apply them to our lives back home. One exam­ple of our plan of action will be our efforts to help with the growth of stu­dent run gar­dens on the Seat­tle Cam­pus that will pro­vide organic whole foods to UW stu­dents. Now, as being a stu­dent at the Both­ell Cam­pus, I am also advo­cat­ing for a stu­dent run ini­tia­tive to plant com­mu­nity gar­dens on the Both­ell Cam­pus that will be used to feed the stu­dents in on-campus hous­ing. Along with help­ing to pro­mote the growth of com­mu­nity based gar­dens in the UW com­mu­nity, my peers are also work­ing as a whole to pro­mote con­nec­tions between the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton and the Amer­i­can Acad­emy in Rome, whose model of sus­tain­able urban agri­cul­ture pro­vides some of the best pro­duce grown in Rome. By pro­mot­ing these inter­na­tional con­nec­tions between our uni­ver­sity and other orga­ni­za­tions across the globe, we are help­ing to raise aware­ness to the ben­e­fits of alter­na­tive food sys­tems. Ones that can feed the world through much health­ier and more sat­is­fy­ing means than what our cur­rent glob­al­ized food econ­omy offers.
While there are an abun­dant amount of oppor­tu­ni­ties in which I could apply my expe­ri­ences abroad to the remain­der of my aca­d­e­mic career, the mem­o­ries that I gained from my time in Italy are ones that will last a life time. I could not have asked for a more enrich­ing expe­ri­ence than what was offered through the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton. As an indi­vid­ual who is deeply pas­sion­ate about food, this pro­gram opened up an enor­mous amount of oppor­tu­nity for my future culi­nary endeav­ors. While my time in was Italy closely cor­re­lated with my pas­sion, solely being abroad pro­vided such won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ties for me, that I can whole heart­edly rec­om­mend for any stu­dent, from any aca­d­e­mic dis­ci­pline to pur­sue study­ing abroad. It will be, as I can speak from expe­ri­ence, one of the most enrich­ing expe­ri­ences of your life! Just go out and fol­low your dreams!

Farm Stay in the Hills of Umbria

As the past few weeks have gone by and I begin to reflect on the expe­ri­ences from my time in Italy so far, my pas­sion for arti­sanal Ital­ian food has sky­rock­eted. I have spent much time wan­der­ing the streets of Rome look­ing for tra­di­tional Trattoria’s (small bistros), arti­san bak­eries, and pro­ducer ven­dors, yet my wan­der­ing has made me curi­ous about the source of all this amaz­ing food.

A major part of our pro­gram has been on the focus of our foods ori­gins, and the idea how of we as con­sumers, should have the right, and respon­si­bil­ity, to know where our food comes from. The beauty of Ital­ian cui­sine is eas­ily seen as the link­age between farm and table, and here, this con­nec­tion is much stronger than in most other coun­tries around the world. Over the past week I had a won­der­ful oppor­tu­nity to learn, first­hand, how these prod­ucts reach us by work­ing at the source in a small pic­turesque farm in the hills of the Umbrian countryside.

For the past week I worked at the Semi Bradi Farm, a small seven hec­tor piece of land, which lies in the hills above the town of Gub­bio, Italy. This small Tus­can farm is one of com­plete self-sufficiency where a group of ten young peo­ple work to pro­vide food for sale, but more impor­tantly, for them­selves. As Fabio San­tori, a young stew­ard to the sur­round­ing land in which he calls home, states that “while I may not be rich in money, I am rich in food” (Fabio, 2012). This is the phi­los­o­phy that he works by to pro­vide food for his young son, Pedro, and the oth­ers mem­bers of Semi Bradi. While Fabio is not the only full time farmer work­ing as a part of the Semi Bradi team, his efforts encom­pass a pas­sion for the land that is shared by each mem­ber. Another affil­i­ate of Semi Bradi, Alessan­dro Paolini, was my inter­preter for my time on the farm and believed very strongly in form­ing a solid rela­tion­ship with the land, as it bears the foods that he iden­ti­fies with as a Tus­can farmer.

I had arrived at Semi Bradi dur­ing the third week of Novem­ber which is a time where the har­vest was busy at the farm. As the foods of autumn were in full bloom, I was kept busy in the farm har­vest­ing, herd­ing, and fix­ing what­ever needed to be done. As the begin­ning of Novem­ber is the time in which olives are har­vested for the year, I spent a large part of my days help­ing comb the branches of Semi Bradi’s count­less amounts of olive trees. As I looked over the trees, and out into the val­leys sur­round­ing the farm, I felt an urge of pas­sion and sat­is­fac­tion race through my veins. I was being a part the very begin­ning process of mak­ing olive oil, which in Italy is the lifeblood of not only their food, but their cul­ture. There was some­thing about get­ting cuts from the sur­round­ing black­berry vines, and being cov­ered in dirt that sur­rounded the tree that made this process of har­vest­ing the olives so much more meaningful.

As an aspir­ing chef, and a con­scious con­sumer of food, I was feel­ing the toil of the labor that goes into an arti­san prod­uct. I had a new respect for a prod­uct that hon­estly, I had taken for granted before. By see­ing how many olives it takes to make just one liter of olive oil, I vowed to never waste another drop out of respect for the peo­ple who labor over these fruits.

As the olives I picked were to be used for cook­ing on the Semi Bradi Farm and sold in the mar­ket, I could really see the sat­is­fac­tion that Fabio, Alessan­dro, and all of the other mem­bers of the farm got from pro­vid­ing for them­selves from the land. By see­ing the real source of such an impor­tant prod­uct of Ital­ian cul­ture I felt as if my time wan­der­ing the streets of Rome was not lost. I was on a mis­sion to find the find and appre­ci­ate the sources of the foods that make this cul­ture so great. With much grat­i­tude, after spend­ing time on the Semi Bradi farm in Umbria, I am now even more intrigued with enjoy­ing the foods that define Ital­ian Cul­ture and the places that they come from.


Terra Madre

As we are fly­ing down the rail­ways at over 300 Km/h back to Rome, the mem­ory of Turin and the Terra Madre food con­fer­ence are ones that will last a life­time. This year, Terra Madre was held within the retired Fiat Fac­tory just off of the Via Nizza in the out­skirts of Turin. This mas­sive venue held thou­sands of small scale organic farm­ers, butch­ers, cheese mak­ers, and arti­sans from every cor­ner of the globe who all con­gre­gated together to share a pas­sion for their food and culture.

The Slow Food Move­ment, founded by Carlo Petrini in 1987 is the back­bone of this event as they use Terra Madre to express their ideas of oppos­ing glob­al­iza­tion and advo­cat­ing for the res­ur­rec­tion of tra­di­tional cui­sine and cul­ture not only within Italy, but all over the world. Dur­ing the lat­ter half of the 20th cen­tury, Carlo Petrini observed the degra­da­tion of Ital­ian Cui­sine through the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of tra­di­tional foods that were avail­able to Ital­ians, and in 1987, when McDonald’s opened up a restau­rant adja­cent to the Span­ish Steps in Rome, the odor of french fries finally tipped Petrini to begin the Slow Food Movement.

As a net­work that sup­ports farm­ers, Terra Madre gives oppor­tu­ni­ties for the voices of small scale pro­duc­ers to be heard. Slow Food is also a basis for food schol­ars, advo­cates, and “gourmets” to come together and share alter­na­tive ideas of global food pol­icy. Dur­ing Terra Madre, dozens of con­fer­ences are held daily that allow these pro­fes­sion­als and advo­cates to hold forums that explore alter­na­tive means to food pol­icy. Through­out my time at Terra Madre, I vis­ited forums that catered to every­thing from shar­ing ideas for reform­ing the global cof­fee trad­ing sys­tem to learn­ing about inte­grat­ing agri­cul­tural themes into the every­day cur­ricu­lum of class­rooms across Europe. Each of these forums hosted schol­ars that are known inter­na­tion­ally for spear­head­ing the move­ment of alter­na­tive econ­omy around the world, and these forums were a melt­ing pot of ideas that were exclu­sively for­mu­lated at Terra Madre.

While hear­ing about the poten­tial in alle­vi­at­ing global hunger through the efforts of sup­port­ing small scale agri­cul­ture, Terra Madre hosts an incred­i­ble plat­form for ideas, but for many, the real appeal is in the sheer amount of farm­ers, small pro­duc­ers, and artists that attend this event. As men­tioned before, thou­sands of peo­ple from all over the world come to rep­re­sent their county by bring­ing cul­tural arti­facts, whether it may be food or crafts, to help share their pas­sion for their own cul­ture. Within the mas­sive rooms that used to hold the old Fiat Fac­tory, Italy is metic­u­lously orga­nized via its regions to house ven­dors who bring their prod­ucts for sale and to sam­ple. Imag­ine walk­ing through a Costco Ware­house of only sam­ples, and mul­ti­ply that by x 100, and then maybe, just maybe, you can grasp the scale of Terra Madre. The prod­ucts avail­able in Terra Madre are not ones that you would find on the shelves of gro­cery stores, but only through the hands of pas­sion­ate arti­sans that pro­vide a sort of an intan­gi­ble qual­ity that is notice­able through the imper­fec­tions of their cured Salumes, cannoli’s, and cheeses that line the tables of Terra Madre.

After 5 days of sam­pling some of the best foods that Italy has to offer and lis­ten­ing to some of the worlds most acclaimed food schol­ars, Terra Madre has left me with a new per­spec­tive of food. One that is eager to explore the alter­na­tives of food pol­icy, pro­duc­tion, and con­sump­tion. In the words of Carlo Petrini, “be a co-producer, not a con­sumer.” This phi­los­o­phy is an idea that may help define the future of the way we eat.

Cooking and Connecting

Terra Madre” — Mother Earth

While hav­ing an abun­dance of good food at my fin­ger­tips avail­able from the stalls of the Campo de Fiori mar­ket and its sur­round­ing spe­cialty shops, eat­ing well is not hard to do. One of my great­est plea­sures is cook­ing with foods that are straight from the farmer. By bring­ing food straight from the mar­ket stalls to my home, I feel as a con­sumer that I am help­ing to shorten the links from which food reaches the table. The feel­ing that I am help­ing sus­tain a farmer’s lifestyle by pur­chas­ing my foods from their fields is one that ensures I am ful­fill­ing a respon­si­bil­ity as a con­scious and eth­i­cal con­sumer. The assur­ance that I have from this prac­tice war­rants that not only farm­ers are taken care of, but I also have the priv­i­lege of enjoy­ing fresh pro­duce, cheeses, and meats that are cared for with pas­sion. The pas­sion that these farm­ers put into their prod­ucts is shown through their qual­ity, their unique­ness, and their fla­vor. These are not “cookie cut­ter” prod­ucts that reflect mod­ern day, genet­i­cally mod­i­fied foods that have no fla­vor, but prod­ucts that share a story about the farm­ers them­selves. The ter­roir, or unique fla­vor, of each prod­uct of a farmer is rec­og­niz­able as the land itself is reflected in the foods that it yields.

The story of each of these foods is what I enjoy bring­ing to the table as an aspir­ing chef. My job is to allow the fla­vor of the food to shine by not adul­ter­at­ing it and by hav­ing such won­der­ful pro­duce avail­able in autumn, this is not hard to do! By hav­ing such an abun­dance of foods avail­able from chanterelle mush­rooms, win­ter greens, pump­kins, and a plethora of fall herbs, I am in heaven with the amount of end­less oppor­tu­ni­ties to cook from. Dur­ing the past few weeks of our pro­gram, we have been host­ing a series of pot lucks and cook­ing lessons within the uni­ver­sity. They have been a great medium of con­gre­ga­tion as the promise of qual­ity food brings every­one together. All of the stu­dents are extremely tal­ented cook as well and when we all come together dur­ing one of our pot lucks there is no short­age of deli­cious food to be enjoyed. The mar­ket as well has pro­vided such a focal point for con­ver­sa­tion, com­pany, and good cheer as we all enjoy the fruits of its bounty. The joys of pur­chas­ing pro­duce just a stone’s throw away and enjoy­ing it with friends has really been a very fes­tive part of the trip.

By con­nect­ing with friends through food and sup­port­ing the farm­ers who uphold the pil­lars of tra­di­tional Ital­ian cui­sine and food cul­ture, buy­ing food from the Campo de Fiori Mar­ket and com­ing together to cel­e­brate its qual­ity is just one of the sim­ple joys here in Rome.

As we are reach­ing our half way point through the quar­ter, which flew by in the blink of an eye, we are now on our way to the Terra Madre, an inter­na­tional food con­fer­ence. Terra Madre is an annual con­fer­ence held in Turin, Italy, that offers a plat­form for farm­ers, gourmets, and arti­sanal pro­duc­ers from all over the world to come together and share ideas about food con­ser­va­tion, inno­va­tion, and what the world may hold for in terms of future food pol­icy. My next entry will be reflec­tive of my expe­ri­ences at Terra Madre as we will under­stand the per­spec­tives of some of the world’s most acclaimed food schol­ars and activists.

Below is a link to check out the Terra Madre and the Slow Food Move­ment!

Market Life

Cured Meats and Salumes

Can­ning Tomatoes

As the last few weeks of my time here in Rome have flown by in the blink of an eye, I feel as if I am really start­ing to sink into the flow of Ital­ian life. The days have leisurely been spent enjoy­ing all of which the Campo de Fiori and the sur­round­ing area has to offer. The heart of my stud­ies here rests in the stud­ies of the cul­ture and pol­i­tics food. As part of our cur­ricu­lum we are ana­lyz­ing the anthro­po­log­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of Ital­ian cui­sine. What is known to the Ital­ians as the “cul­ture of the table” is one of the ideas we are study­ing. The notion of how food is used as a medium for con­gre­ga­tion is notably a unique part of Ital­ian cul­ture. The real beauty of this in my opin­ion lies in the sim­plic­ity and the qual­ity of their food.

The Campo de Fiori mar­ket, which rests within the shadow of the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton Rome Cen­ter is one of the many epi­cen­ters of good food in Rome. The mar­ket out­side the UWRC runs every day as ven­dors come from afar come to sell their pro­duce to the crowds of both tourists and locals. Lined around the plethora of fruit, veg­etable, and pasta ven­dors are arti­sanal shops, some of which have been around for over a cen­tury. Together, each of the shops, cafés, and mar­kets stalls all cre­ate a buzzing atmos­phere that helps con­firm the fact that you are in one of Rome’s most well-known gas­tro­nomic capitals.

Each day is amaz­ing as I am able to find a new trea­sure in the mar­ket. Whether it is enjoy­ing a pizza Bianca (pizza sea­soned with very good olive oil and sea salt) from the famous Forno Bak­ery, or a piece of creamy gor­gonzola from the local Lat­te­ria (cheese shop), the Campo de Fiori con­sis­tently sur­prises me with its pas­sion for good food. Pur­chas­ing daily from the fresh selec­tion of foods in the mar­ket is a change I could get used to while liv­ing in Rome. While there are many gro­cery stores that occupy the wind­ing streets of Rome, there is an intan­gi­ble sat­is­fac­tion I get from buy­ing my foods straight from the farmer. Some­thing about the sim­plic­ity and the qual­ity of what you are about to eat, just makes it so much more enjoy­able. Who knew liv­ing so sim­ply could be so good?

My first week in Roma

Ciao friends! It has been about a week since I have landed in the beau­ti­ful city of Roma. After a series of long flights, a lot of air­line food, and many, many long lines I have finally set­tled into my new apart­ment! Rome is a dream come true, and just as pic­turesque as one would see on post­cards sold in the local tabaccheria’s (tobacco stores). I have the plea­sure of resid­ing in the heart of Rome on the Piazza del Bis­cione over­look­ing the bustling Campo de Fiori Square. As the Campo holds a daily mar­ket of fresh pro­duce, cheeses, pas­tas, salumes, and every other essen­tial of Ital­ian gas­tron­omy, it is a pop­u­lar area with the city’s epi­curean types. There is a sense of pas­sion for food here that is incred­i­ble. Some of Rome’s old­est bak­eries, delicatessen’s, and pro­duce venders all have estab­lished them­selves in this part of the city as they pro­vide the foods that make this city so well known. As my own, 1 bed­room stu­dio apart­ment is just a stone’s throw away from the Campo, I’ll be spend­ing much of my time enjoy­ing the gourmet delights that are offered through­out the market.

As the rhythm of the pro­gram is slow­ing set­ting its pace and the days are becom­ing busier, we are lucky enough to have free time to explore the twist­ing side streets of Rome. Fiats, Vespa’s, and pedes­tri­ans fill these nar­row alleys, the fra­grance of arti­sanal bak­eries warm the air. The com­mo­tions of the locals on their way around force vig­i­lance as I try not to steer clear of their pre­de­ter­mined paths. The atmos­phere here is like noth­ing I have ever expe­ri­enced before.

It’s still hard swal­low­ing the fact that this metrop­o­lis of food, wine, and ancient cul­ture will be my home for the next few months. The Ital­ians seem to have a knack for liv­ing. Con­gre­gat­ing at the cof­fee bars in the morn­ing for a cap­puc­cino, enjoy­ing a siesta every after­noon, and tak­ing late night gelato strolls are just a few of the things that make life here so grand.

Until next time,


Ciao Italia

With only a mat­ter of weeks left until I board my flight and begin on the trip of a life­time, the thoughts that this trip is finally becom­ing a real­ity is really start­ing to hit me. While there was no turn­ing back now, the feel­ings of embark­ing are cas­cad­ing down on me like a dream slowly unfold­ing. By being able to go to Italy to learn about the very essence of Ital­ian Cui­sine and cul­ture, I am ful­fill­ing a per­sonal vision of mine to learn more about the con­nec­tion between peo­ple and food. But by doing so in a way where I am earn­ing col­lege credit, UW Both­ell makes this vision much more of a tan­gi­ble real­ity. I feel so for­tu­nate in the sense that I am able to quench two thirsts with this trip. One is being able to stick to my aca­d­e­mic career through my pur­suit of a degree in busi­ness, and the sec­ond by being able to sat­isfy my pas­sion for travel and expe­ri­enc­ing dif­fer­ent cul­tures through food. By adding an inter­na­tional expe­ri­ence of this mag­ni­tude to my edu­ca­tional reper­toire, I am able to not only help feed my pas­sion for cook­ing, but also share the expe­ri­ences I will gain from Italy with my peers to help UW Both­ell grow as a more cul­tur­ally appre­cia­tive campus.

The ben­e­fits of hav­ing this oppor­tu­nity to travel dur­ing my col­lege expe­ri­ence are one that will add an intan­gi­ble depth of expe­ri­ence to my life. While hav­ing the priv­i­lege to study in the heart of Rome, I feel priv­i­leged to be able to add such an expe­ri­ence to my edu­ca­tional reper­toire. By hav­ing the oppor­tu­nity to see how the Ital­ians study, eat, and live their lives, I am sure the expe­ri­ences I will have will greatly enhance my per­spec­tive of Euro­pean cul­ture and the greater world. With this enhanced per­spec­tive of the world beyond UW Both­ell, I feel that I will be able to take what I learn in Italy and bring it back to help bet­ter the remain­der of my aca­d­e­mic career. By hav­ing an out­look about the world that not every stu­dent has the oppor­tu­nity to obtain, I am sure that my expe­ri­ences in Italy will do noth­ing but help scaf­fold a tier for suc­cess in both my aca­d­e­mic and culi­nary aspirations.

Beyond my aca­d­e­mic goals, my time Italy will surely add an invalu­able touch to my culi­nary ambi­tions as well. While Italy has one of the most beloved cuisines in the world, eat­ing in the heart of Rome will surely be one of the high­lights of my trip! Hav­ing an espresso by morn­ing, a pizza al taglio by lunch, and one of hun­dreds delec­table pasta dishes by din­ner, I will cer­tainly leave Rome will a full stom­ach and a nour­ished palate. But beyond eat­ing, just being in Rome will be a sat­is­fy­ing expe­ri­ence as I will be able to watch the chefs work, and hope­fully cre­ate con­nec­tions with a few to use in the likely event that I will one day return to Rome hun­gry for more.

With only a few weeks left before I board the plane, my bags are begin­ning to be dusted off as I start pack­ing for one of the most influ­en­tial expe­ri­ences of my life. As for now, I am sure that my hopes and expec­ta­tions of Rome will be greatly sur­passed upon touch­ing down at the Leonardo da Vinci Air­port in the town of Fiumicino.

Until then, Buon Appetito..

Making my dream a reality

As sum­mer is slowly pass­ing by us, and the days are get­ting shorter, my depar­ture date for Rome is ener­get­i­cally near­ing. I’d say that even though sum­mer is end­ing, I’ve never been so excited for the quar­ter to start! I can now see all of my prepa­ra­tion com­ing together as my flight is now booked, my week­end excur­sions are planned, and my text­books are being ordered! While there was an abun­dant amount of prepa­ra­tion that went into mak­ing this dream a real­ity, much of it was made pos­si­ble by look­ing to the stu­dents, staff, and fac­ulty at the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton for assistance.

By hear­ing my peers sto­ries of their time abroad and the amaz­ing mem­o­ries they will for­ever hold, their expe­ri­ences helped to con­jure up my imag­i­na­tion and my moti­va­tion to seek out this oppor­tu­nity for myself. While know­ing that the course I would be tak­ing would be at the 490 level, being a sopho­more, I nearly shut­tered at the fear of doing such a thing. But after care­ful thought, I con­cluded that a chance to spend a few months in Rome, study­ing the very cul­ture that my pas­sion orig­i­nates from is a pre­cious oppor­tu­nity. While the aca­d­e­mics will surely be daunt­ing, the expe­ri­ence is one that will for­ever change my per­spec­tive on life and my pas­sion towards food. This is not some­thing to pass up due to fear of suc­cess academically.

Now, pay­ing for such an odyssey, that’s another obsta­cle. While I had made up my mind early on about ded­i­cat­ing both my time and money to study­ing abroad, I had to come up with my bud­get myself. By being a nearly finan­cially inde­pen­dent stu­dent, this meant work­ing to pay for the trip, and lots of it. While I could bust my rear end work­ing over­time every week to sat­isfy my bud­get, I chose to use my brain rather than my back. From see­ing the dozens of emails that go out daily from the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton, I remem­ber notic­ing the mul­ti­tude of schol­ar­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties that were sent out to stu­dents inter­ested in pur­su­ing study abroad. Ini­tially, to be hon­est, I didn’t think much of them, but when the time came for me to sat­isfy a bud­get, these oppor­tu­ni­ties were the light at the end of the tun­nel!
By using my sought out pro­fes­sional rela­tion­ships with the fac­ulty and staff at UW, I was able to use the con­nec­tions I had made over the pre­vi­ous aca­d­e­mic year to assist me in my search and process of find­ing and fill­ing out schol­ar­ship appli­ca­tions. These con­nec­tions were intan­gi­ble because they lead me to the peace of mind know­ing that I had the oppor­tu­nity to earn the fund­ing nec­es­sary for this trip through my aca­d­e­mic and per­sonal mer­its. After receiv­ing two schol­ar­ships to help fund my trip, I breathed a sigh of relief as I was slowly mak­ing the allo­ca­tions nec­es­sary to ful­fill my bud­get. (But seri­ously, apply for schol­ar­ships, they are worth every penny!) By talk­ing to my aca­d­e­mic advis­ers and all of the won­der­ful ladies in the study abroad offices in both UW Both­ell and UW Seat­tle, I was really able to solid­ify my hopes and prepa­ra­tions to go to Italy!

As the ball is con­tin­u­ing to roll and my trip is com­ing up in the near future, another thought came to mind. Who would be going on this trip with me? Would there be peo­ple with sim­i­lar pas­sions that I have? Well, as I soon found out, out of the 16 stu­dents accepted to the pro­gram, I was the one and only guy. What are the chances of that?! After learn­ing that I was the only guy, I was curi­ous to why no other men were accepted for this trip? Was the course really that tar­geted towards a lady audi­ence, or did I just have dumb luck and had the oppor­tu­nity to travel half way around the world with 15 young ladies? Only time will tell!

While this odd ratio of male to female stu­dents will cer­tainly add to the char­ac­ter of the trip, study­ing abroad with oth­ers who have sim­i­lar inter­ests is a great way to con­nect with peo­ple. By hav­ing such an influ­en­tial expe­ri­ence together, I am sure the con­nec­tions made dur­ing this trip will last a lifetime.

Pursuing my passion through academia

While my com­mit­ment to pur­sue study abroad didn’t hap­pen overnight, my pas­sion for cook­ing has always been a large part of my life. For years I have spent a tremen­dous amount of time work­ing to fur­ther my knowl­edge of food. Whether it may have been appren­tic­ing in restau­rants at a young age, spend­ing count­less hours read­ing cook­books, or reli­giously watch­ing the Food Net­work, the time I spent pur­su­ing my pas­sion has always been ben­e­fi­cial in push­ing me closer to my goals. But while doing these things, I knew I still lacked a truly global per­spec­tive of food and cul­ture that is a part of becom­ing a chef. While know­ing the prepa­ra­tion of a cer­tain cul­tures food is essen­tial, under­stand­ing the cul­ture behind the peo­ple them­selves is a nec­es­sary adden­dum as well. By under­stand­ing the intan­gi­ble sat­is­fac­tion one can get from eat­ing a meal that makes them rem­i­nisce their child­hood, or of an exotic place that they once trav­elled, is the type of under­stand­ing that I am look­ing for as I travel to Italy to under­stand their cul­ture. This under­stand­ing is like a trou­bled love affair that I have with food, as I try to see how the Ital­ians can use it to rep­re­sent their own cul­ture and ulti­mately bring peo­ple from dif­fer­ent cul­tures together because of it. By know­ing that this is achiev­able all over Italy, whether it may be in the heart of the Campo di Fiori in Rome, or scat­tered amongst the Tus­can hill­sides, I am moti­vated to seek it out.

As my study abroad trip in the fall approaches, I am becom­ing more and more jubi­lant with the thought that my dream of trav­el­ing to Italy to find this con­nec­tion is unfold­ing right in front of me. While going with a deter­mined goal in mind, I was admit­tedly ner­vous in the begin­ning of whether or not I would be able attend the trip. I mean, while I have my pas­sion for food to feed, I know that as a stu­dent I have respon­si­bil­i­ties to uphold, dead­lines to meet, and papers to write. I was afraid that by tak­ing the time to travel half way around the globe would deter my chances of achiev­ing my aca­d­e­mic goals. Luck­ily, with a lot of help from my col­leagues I learned that this was not the case.

While being an aspir­ing Busi­ness Major, I couldn’t see the real con­nec­tion of where an anthro­pol­ogy based cur­ricu­lum would sat­isfy any of my pro­gram require­ments. It didn’t seem ratio­nal either to invest time, money, and prepa­ra­tion into a pro­gram that didn’t ben­e­fit my long term aca­d­e­mic goals. But, as this pro­gram is a pic­ture per­fect rep­re­sen­ta­tion of my pas­sion, being a class on the cul­ture and pol­i­tics behind food, I knew there must be a pli­able con­nec­tion I could make to pur­sue this amaz­ing oppor­tu­nity. And for­tu­nately, after doing fur­ther research into the kinds of pre­req­ui­sites required for a degree in busi­ness I found that this course could actu­ally sat­isfy my nec­es­sary higher level elec­tive require­ments! After hav­ing the con­ver­sa­tion with my aca­d­e­mic adviser, my dream of trav­el­ing to Italy was finally com­ing true!

After con­firm­ing my com­mit­ment to pur­sue the pro­gram I was so happy to see that it was pos­si­ble to con­nect my pas­sion for food to my aca­d­e­mic career. The thought of apply­ing for the pro­gram became even more fea­si­ble after this real­iza­tion! By hav­ing a solid con­nec­tion of how my long term life goals applied to the topic of this course, I had no prob­lem answer­ing the extended essay ques­tions of the appli­ca­tion, request­ing let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tions, or explain­ing to my Boss, Chef Lynn Tran why I needed to take two months off of work! Luck­ily, each of my advis­ers, whether it was aca­d­e­mic or pro­fes­sional, was more than help­ful in facil­i­tat­ing the process of apply­ing. They offered words of advice and sug­ges­tions as I began to wrap my head around the idea of trav­el­ing so far away. Along with work­ing closely with my advis­ers, I found that my most valu­able resource was the pro­gram direc­tor, Dr. Ann Anag­nost. After cor­re­spond­ing via email for many weeks, I was able to form a con­nec­tion with her where I real­ized we had very sim­i­lar philoso­phies around food. This con­nec­tion became so help­ful as my ques­tions arose about the pro­gram itself and what we would be doing to help bet­ter my under­stand­ing my con­nec­tion between cul­ture and food. By hav­ing so many assets at my fin­ger­tips to help guide myself through the adven­tures that lay ahead with study­ing abroad, I feel con­fi­dent into set­ting out on my journey!

Taste of Italy

Blog by James Ander­son, UW Both­ell Busi­ness Major, Study Abroad–Italy

As my upcom­ing trip to Italy will be full of invig­o­rat­ing tastes, expe­ri­ences, and mem­o­ries, I am begin­ning to become ecsta­tic with the per­spec­tive that I will gain from my time abroad. I’m pos­i­tive it will for­ever change my views of cul­ture and, more impor­tantly, of cui­sine. But why do I have such a strong aspi­ra­tion to travel half way around the globe to pur­sue such an odyssey?  Well, let’s take a look back to see how this all began. My inter­est in cook­ing started at a very young age. I remem­ber wak­ing up one morn­ing when I had to have only been about 8 years old and see­ing there was noth­ing to eat in the house. Doing what any man would do at any age, the first thing I did was grab the bacon out of the fridge, and the rest was history.

Over the past decade I have pas­sion­ately strived to learn as much as pos­si­ble about cook­ing and more so any aspect of food. By watch­ing the Food Net­work reli­giously, exper­i­ment­ing with new recipes, and even­tu­ally appren­tic­ing in some of the best restau­rants in the Seat­tle area, I began to scaf­fold the means nec­es­sary to solid­ify my pas­sion of prepar­ing and shar­ing food with oth­ers. By being for­tu­nate enough to work under some of the most rec­og­nized chefs in Seat­tle, I am not only able to ful­fill my pas­sion for cook­ing on a daily basis, but I am also able to inte­grate the expe­ri­ence I have gained from work­ing into my col­lege education.

As I began my fresh­man year at UWB, pur­su­ing a degree in busi­ness, I chose classes where I could con­tinue to incor­po­rate my pas­sion for food into my edu­ca­tion. By par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Dis­cov­ery Core I and II classes, focused around two of my favorite goods, choco­late and cof­fee, I was thrilled to see how UW Both­ell was able to use such unlikely medi­ums to study socioe­co­nom­ics, com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion, and the cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance behind my two of my favorite ingre­di­ents! Plus, what other uni­ver­sity would have a pro­fes­sional choco­late tast­ing fes­ti­val as a final project?!

By par­tic­i­pat­ing in these classes I was not only earn­ing applic­a­ble credit, but I was mak­ing real world con­nec­tions with both my pro­fes­sors and local ven­dors who expressed huge amounts of inter­est in aid­ing me though out my culi­nary endeav­ors. These con­nec­tions that I began to make through­out fresh­man year are so impor­tant because they were allow­ing me to estab­lish my name with pro­fes­sion­als in var­i­ous indus­tries at such an early age. And by hav­ing these pro­fes­sion­als rec­og­nize a young adult as being tena­cious and pas­sion­ate about their field of inter­est, I feel as if I am set­ting myself up for enor­mous opportunity.

By see­ing how oppor­tu­nity was just around the cor­ner at UW Both­ell, I was thirsty for more. As I con­tin­ued through fresh­man year, I had always heard about study abroad through the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton, but I never thought it was so read­ily acces­si­ble, espe­cially to fresh­men. As I began to start the con­ver­sa­tions with my pro­fes­sors, aca­d­e­mic advis­ers, and peers I slowly became more deter­mined  to seek out how I could pur­sue trav­el­ing abroad to quench my thirst for expand­ing my culi­nary repertoire.