Hannah Even

Major: Culinary Food Science
Class: Junior
Timeframe: Spring 2024
Type of Experience: Study abroad

Overall Experience

This experience was so much fun. We spent about 5 days in Thessaloniki, Greece, and the rest of our time moving around Italy. I believe that you can learn so much about a culture from its food. For example, we learned that perek, a traditional Greek pie from the Pontus region (present-day Northern Turkey), was brought to Northern Thessaloniki by immigrants when that Greek state was taken over. This dish shows the staple Greek foods and how, back then, they needed a product that was shelf-stable and quick to make. The thin pitas used to make the perek can be stored in a cupboard for up to a year, and there are no preservatives. Then, after a quick dunk in water, some filling, and a frying pan, they have a hearty, delicious meal. In Florence, Italy, we learned all about how they only use produce that is in season. This shows how much they value high-quality foods. A chef told us that Italians don't really care about eating avocado toast because avocados don't grow there. They also are no good when they are imported. When we were there, eggplants and asparagus were in season, and we ate so much of those foods. They were delicious. While learning all those things I grew very close to ten other students and two faculty members that I now feel confident I could talk to in the hallway when I couldn't before.

Learning experience

The most valuable learning experience I encountered was during our gelato tour. This was the most valuable in my future profession because I tried Sicilian gelato made from 3 simple things. Fruit, water, and sugar. It was probably the most refreshing thing I have ever had, and I don't like fruit desserts. I learned from this experience that a few simple ingredients really can be best. I have never seen something like that in the U.S., and I think it is something Americans would enjoy. There is a market for it, and it is healthier than the stuff we eat here. You never know what you may learn in this study abroad that could help you create something in your future. I am planning on going into the frozen dessert industry, and I didn't think I would learn something directly applicable to that on this trip, but I did.

Memorable experience

The most memorable experience I had from the trip was sharing my faith with my classmates. Italy is the capital of the Roman Catholic Church and a huge part of European history, so we were able to see the inside of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the Cathedral of Florence, as well as many other churches. I enjoyed talking about my faith with others who may not know much about it, and I hope it helped them understand the history of the countries we were in even more.

What did you not expect?

What surprised me in Greece and Italy was how many people still purchase their produce from farmers' markets and specialty vendors. Almost all the locals do. It has helped me see the value of purchasing local and fresh products. Getting these high-quality ingredients help your community and help make food products taste even better. Europeans take food seriously, and no amount of quality is skimmed. Being a food scientist, I can keep this in mind and try to support local producers and purchase high-quality ingredients when I am designing new products.

What advice would you give?

I would say to apply for as many scholarships as possible to make it even more affordable and not be scared. This is my second study abroad experience, and I don't regret either of them one bit. Also, to know that jet lag is real, but it is worth it.

How has this experience impacted your life?

This has impacted my life in many ways. I now have a deeper understanding of the Mediterranean Diet and how an active lifestyle is part of that; it's not just what you eat. I also learned how to cook delicious meals with simple ingredients, which has helped me know simple, high-quality ingredients cooked properly can go a long way. We made dishes in Italy that only had 4-5 ingredients, and it was my favorite thing. It is cool to see that having a bunch of things doesn't necessarily make something better. I can use this in my future career as a food scientist to help me make simple quality foods, and I can apply it in my life to remember that good, simple things can make you happy, not having a bunch of things or fancy things.

How did you learn about this experience?

I first learned about his opportunity through Erica Bierman. She is my academic advisor, the advisor for the Culinary Food Science Club, and a professor, so she shared with her students and the people in the club about the trip.

International Connections