A recent student BreakAway through Europe focused on a connection between food, culture and travel writing. The trip was appropriately called “Chocolate, Cheese, and Ciabatta: Cultures and Cuisines of Central Europe” as the group of 13 students and two professors visited Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
“This BreakAway was absolutely amazing,” Elizabeth Farrell ’14 said. “I had such a blast on this trip, the advisors were unbelievably amazing, and all of the other students were so much fun to hang out with. We didn't know each other very well at first, but we fit in perfectly and bonded so well, and had a great adventure in Europe together.”
Like other Illinois College BreakAways, this trip provided students with an opportunity to learn both on and off campus.
“Specifically, on our trip to Munich, Zurich and Milan, students critically analyzed various aspects of food culture – politics, colonialism, regional cuisines, globalization, activism and commodification,” Betsy Hall, instructor of English, said.
Jacob Dander ’15 discovered more than he could have imagined.
“This may sound a little premature, but this trip was the experience of my life,” Dander said. “I learned more about myself and my place in the world than I could have ever anticipated. Traveling fostered a love for the world and was my first step toward becoming a responsible global citizen. Encountering different cultures enriched and deepened my love for my own and allowed for some profound discoveries about my own cultural identity … a valuable gift from any experience.”
One of the highlights of their trip was on their last day when they went to see the actual portrait of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” in Milan, Italy. That evening trip leaders Hall and Kelly Dagan, associate professor of sociology, made their own last supper for the students at the place they were staying, the Ostello Bello Hostel.
“The advisors cooked our last meal that last night in Milan, which was delicious, and how could we not re-create the painting when 13 students went on this BreakAway,” Farrell said. “Looking back on our picture, it reminds me of all the fun we had together and everything that we experienced in Europe.”
Students in the photo from left to right are: Steven Rippo ’13, Emily Hanes ’15, Elizabeth Farrell, Julia Mendez ’16, Kelley Bishop ’14, Mary Dahlem ’13, Jake Himmel ’14, Jacob Dander (standing), Sam Stowell ’14, Emilee Trenter ’13, Erin Bauler ’13, Ciara Sweatman ’14 and Danae James ’15.
Course and trip info:
“Chocolate, Cheese, and Ciabatta: Cultures and Cuisines of Central Europe” focused on learning about a culture by studying, writing about, and participating in its food production and consumption practices. The trip to Munich, Zurich and Milan included gastro tourism opportunities, grocery outlets, farms, farmers’ markets, bakeries, specialty food shops, food advertisements, restaurant menus and configurations, food prices, regional commitment to biodiversity, the significance of food in art, etc. The trip's theme highlighted disciplinary intersections between rhetoric and sociology as well as utilized unique theoretical approaches from each discipline to better understand the relationship between food and culture. Each student wrote a travel journal that served as impetus for learning and reflecting, a tool of self-discovery and a lens for detecting their own cultural assumptions — particularly about America’s food system.
The course learning goals include:
- Understanding and applying McDonaldization theory
- Understanding the major tenets of the Slow Food movement
- Analyzing and thinking critically about the politics of food, such as cultural food colonialism, the significance of regional cuisines, globalization and the commodification of food
- Recognizing that food is not just a means of sustenance, but is also a signifier of culture and/or the death of culture
- Recognizing the inherently interdisciplinary nature of food studies
- Developing travel writing skills
- Detecting cultural assumptions underlying food production, consumption, performance and activism; and in the process, become aware of our own cultural assumptions about these issues
Goals of IC BreakAways:
- to introduce students to cultures and learning experiences that are not possible on campus;
- for students to gain independence and confidence by traveling to, and navigating and living in a new environment (e.g., using public transportation);
- for students to recognize cultures and perspectives other than their own in the world;
- for students to become comfortable enough in another culture so that they will consider traveling abroad again or even studying abroad;
- for students to begin to achieve intercultural competency through increasing sensitivity toward and respect of other cultures;
- for students to reflect on their own national and personal identity by comparison with different cultures and peoples.