How this TCNJ Summer Course Abroad satisfies a hunger for history


What could be better than studying abroad in Italy? How about one with a focus on food?

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

The class, first offered in 2012, examines the origins and assimilation of Italian cuisine and culture in American society. The migrant experience of Italian-Americans is examined, with particular attention to how women—mothers and grandmothers—are conduits for tradition and cuisine.

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

“We had a lot planned for us, we were always on the road,” he said Jenna Saldi ’24, who used some of her scarce free time to attend a papal blessing in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Jenna said the trip was “transformational.” Like many students on the course, she has a family connection to Italy. The trip to Palermo – the home of her grandmother’s family – was particularly important 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 got to know the different sights of Rome like the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum, so it was a really nice experience to actually see the places that were always discussed in my history class.”

There was a lot of required reading, including Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, “but I enjoyed every minute of it while we were there,” he said Lakshmi Gurram ’23. “It was a fun, fulfilling educational experience that I will cherish for a lifetime.”

Cecilia Colbethadjunct professor of women’s and gender studies and co-lecturer for the trip next door Matthew Cathell, an 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 decades-long relationships with chefs, tour guides and hotel and tourism providers in Italy.

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

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

– Patricia Alex


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