Over the course of spring break, the NUTR 2220 class, The Mediterranean Diet, took a weeklong excursion to Italy, to learn more about the unique aspects of the diet and its various health benefits. Three days of the trip were spent in Rome, with the rest being spent in Florence. Dr. Bonnie Beezhold, professor of nutrition led the class across a nine-day exploration of Italian culture and Mediterranean cuisine.
In the Italian countryside of Parma, students learned about the production of authentic Parma prosciutto and balsamic vinegar. Another saw a tour of a large farm and olive oil production site, equal parts farm, and factory. Other days saw historical tours of Rome and Florence, to give a more thorough cultural and historical context. The Coliseum and Roman ruins of Rome were juxtaposed against medieval castle towns in the countryside and renaissance architecture in Florence.
“Actually, being in a location you’ve only read, studied, or heard about is a bit surreal and very stimulating… You’re capturing impressions all the time that are filtered by what you know but then building your knowledge from observation” Dr. Beezhold said.
Throughout the entire trip, food was front and center, with multiple dinners and lunches in the cities and countryside, demonstrating a wide range of different locally produced ingredients and dishes.
Over the course of the semester leading up to the trip, the question of Covid-19, and constantly changing restrictions were high on the list of concerns.
“We knew the situation in Italy had improved and expected further improvement, but it was a bit difficult not knowing what state Italy would be in six months down the road with respect to variants. We required full vaccination status to participate, not only for our own safety but because Italy’s guidelines were stricter and more consistent than in the States.” Dr. Beezhold said. Fortunately, the level of Covid restrictions in both Italy and America still allowed the trip to proceed as planned.
Dr. Beezhold said that The Mediterranean Diet course will be returning, though the possibilities for future destinations for the course go beyond Italy.
“Italy is an obvious destination, especially for students who have not been abroad, but places like Spain, France, and Greece would also work without changing the basic course content.” Dr. Beezhold said.
More information about the Benedictine Study Abroad Programs can be found on the Benedictine University Website: https://www.ben.edu/international-programs-and-services/study-abroad/index.cfm