How This TCNJ Summer Abroad Satisfies the Thirst for History

What’s better than a study abroad program in Italy? How about one with a focus on food?

Thirty TCNJ students traveled to Italy for three weeks this summer for the Center for Global Engagement’s popular faculty-led offering: Gendered History of Food: La Cucina Della Nonna (Grandma’s Kitchen).

The course, first offered in 2012, studies the origins and assimilation of Italian cuisine and culture into American society. The migratory experience of Italian Americans is examined, with particular emphasis on how women – mothers and grandmothers – are carriers of tradition and cuisine.

The journey is a whirlwind up and down the boot, and so is Sicily. There were visits to Pompeii and Capri, cooking classes mixed with history lessons in Rome and Sorrento, visits to a limoncello factory, an olive oil mill and the most old cheese factory in the Sorrentine Peninsula.

“A lot was planned for us, we were always on the go,” said Jenna Saldi ’24, who used some of his little free time to attend a papal blessing in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Jenna said the trip was “transformative”. Like many students who have taken the course, she has a family connection to Italy. The trip to Palermo – the home of her grandmother’s family – was particularly meaningful to her.

Ricky Schwartz cooks Italian meatballs with classmates Shannon Leishman ’23 and Catie Murray ’23 at a cooking class in Rome with chef Andrea Consoli.

Ricky Schwartz’23 said Rome was a highlight for him. “I discovered the different monuments of Rome such as the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum. Being able to see the places that have always been covered in my history lessons was a really interesting experience.”

There were quite a few required readings, including “The Godfather,” by Mario Puzo, “but I was having fun every minute we were there,” said Lakshmi Gurram ’23. “It was a fun and rewarding educational experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”

Cecile ColbethAdjunct Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and co-host of the trip alongside Matthew Cathell, assistant professor at the School of Engineering, said it was great to be back in Italy after COVID derailed travel for the past two years. TCNJ has longstanding relationships with chefs, tour guides and hospitality and tourism suppliers in Italy.

“Our Italian friends were delighted that we came back,” she said. “We wanted to show loyalty and help rebuild the Italian economy in any way we could.”

Learn more about this trip and other faculty-led study abroad trips on the Center for Global Engagement website.


—Patricia Alex

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