As a hospitality management student, Lauren Tippen was excited to participate in the Italy study abroad program last year through the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR). That program is focused on the hospitality industry in Italy, as well as Italian culture.
The pandemic forced the cancellation of the program, though, and Tippen, a senior, was unsure if she would have a similar opportunity during her collegiate career.
“When it got cancelled, I was so upset and I really didn’t think I would have this opportunity again,” Tippen said.
When Shanon Dickerson, CAFNR’s director of study abroad, reached out to Tippen in March to let her know that she would, in fact, be able to travel to Italy during the summer months in 2021, Tippen didn’t hesitate.
“When I heard that I had the opportunity to actually go to Italy, I jumped at the chance,” Tippen said. “Last year brought so many disappointments, and it was great to finally have something go right. I missed getting to travel and my first program abroad being in Italy, after everything that happened last year, sounded perfect.”
The Italy study abroad program is one of several summer offerings in CAFNR. The program takes place in the city of Florence, and is primarily for students interested in restaurant management or event planning – as well as Italian culture. Students have the opportunity for unique hands-on experiences and a first-hand education in the language and culture of Italy. An internship is also available for interested students through the program.
Tippen was in Italy from the beginning of June to the beginning of August, as she stayed to complete an internship.
“During my time in Italy, I took a cooking class, a wine and beverage management class, and two Italian language classes,” Tippen said. “My main focus was on learning the language. I was originally only enrolled in a beginner’s course, but I took the intermediate course as well.
“I really loved learning Italian, as it has made me feel so much closer to the culture. In my free time and on weekends, I visited a lot of museums and other cities around the country. With a better grasp of the language, those stops were much more meaningful.”
Tippen’s internship lasted three weeks and was in wine service and beverage management at the Florence University of Arts (FUA). She worked under a sommelier (wine steward) and other chefs in the school’s bistro, Fedora.
“I worked a variety of shifts, mainly during lunch and aperitivo time, which is normally a pre-dinner cocktail that is served with a small plate of finger foods,” Tippen said. “As someone who works in hospitality back in the United States, this was a great experience in working in food and beverage service. I learned the basics of wine service, as well as how to make a variety of cocktails. The staff at FUA was great in teaching me what to do, while also giving me the independence to make decisions on the floor.”
Along with Tippen’s visits to Italian attractions, she took courses throughout the city of Florence, giving her a more in-depth look at the culture. It was the combined experiences that made studying abroad so valuable for Tippen.
“You learn so much about yourself when studying abroad,” Tippen said. “You deal with some tough days where you really miss home, or you feel that things aren’t going right, and it can be very frustrating. Getting through those days and still finding joy in all the new experiences really helps you grow and get out of your comfort zone. Learning about another culture is so eye opening as well. You can find so many things that you have in common with people who have lived a whole different life than you. It brings you so much closer. I’ve made friends here in Italy who I know I will stay in touch with, and I’ll come visit them again.”
Tippen’s experience showcases CAFNR’s “RISE” Initiative, which includes Research, International, Service learning and Experiential learning. Her experience falls under the International section, which opens the door for students to find study abroad programs tailored to a specific degree program, or an international research program.
“I have always loved traveling and have dreamed of going to Europe,” Tippen said. “The Italy study abroad program gave me the opportunity to achieve that dream while also getting to study in a new environment. I loved the idea of getting to learn while being immersed in a culture that was new to me.
“I have learned so much about myself during this experience. I feel so much more confident in who I am and have more clarity on what I want to do with my life. Traveling to a country you’ve never been to by yourself can feel really scary, but the excitement and growth that comes with it is so worth it. I’m excited to be back in Columbia to continue to grow and try new things.”