|Want to stroll past Florence’s famed Duomo cathedral every morning on|
your walk to class? Just keep reading. (Photo courtesy of FUA)
|UAA has its Fred Machetanz paintings, FUA has its|
Renaissance masterpieces. (Photo courtesy of FUA).
The two cities have very little in common: students here circle the lot for parking spaces while students there hike through cobblestone alleys to reach the classroom. Central Italy’s Mediterranean climate is at odds with the deep dark winters of Alaska, and most Florentine buildings are centuries older than anything in Anchorage. Although both cities attract a mass of tourists, international visitors don’t leave Florence when the summer ends.
Florence and Anchorage may be strikingly different, but UAA and FUA share several academic programs. Music students can study opera in the land of Verdi and Puccini. Journalism students can work on an Italian newspaper. If you’ve always wanted to study fashion design or architectural restoration, there are few finer cities than Florence.
The majority of UAA students head to Florence, though, for the food. Since 2007, UAA’s culinary arts program has partnered with FUA’s International School of Hospitality to offer seamless semesters abroad for culinary students.
|Most of the UAA students who travel to Florence are|
hospitality management and culinary arts majors.
(FACT: you can’t spell hospitality without I-T-A-L and Y)
(Photo courtesy of FUA).
When UAA met FUA
Tim Doebler—a culinary arts professor at UAA—has been advising students on the FUA program since he helped launch the partnership in 2007. In the last five years, he’s had 29 students spend a semester in Florence working toward their UAA hospitality and culinary degrees.
|FUA’s culinary students often spend their semester serving|
sweet treats to neighbors and passersby at Fedora, FUA's
student-staffed pastry shop. (Photo courtesy of FUA)
Aside from the unique courses, Tim also sees the value of sending his students off on a four-month international journey. Most of his UAA students are Alaskan, and most are either living with parents or just finding their footing outside the nest. “As a person who grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, I understand the value of going out of state, broadening your horizons and then coming home,” he added.
|FUA’s culinary faculty includes award-winning chefs,|
Andrea Trapani—the head chef of pro soccer team
AFC Fiorentina—and Michelin-starred Massimo Bocus.
(Photo courtesy of FUA)
Feet on the ground in Florence
|Culinary arts student Ryan Armstrong was|
one of 10 UAA students to spend a semester
this school year immersed in the food scene
(Photo courtesy of Ryan Armstrong)
“I hadn’t been out of state very much and hadn’t been able to experience living somewhere else,” he said. In fact, Ryan had never left the country before studying in Florence. He certainly made the most of the experience.
FUA provided Ryan with an apartment next to Santa Croce—a 15th century basilica and one of the main landmarks of Florence. Each day, his walk to class took him directly past Florence’s famed Duomo—the city’s central cathedral.
|FUA provides apartments for students in the|
heart of the city. Ryan ended up in the
neighborhood of 15th century landmark
Santa Croce. (Photo by J. Besl)
His course load for the semester included an Italian language class and an intensive master class on international cakes, which focused each day on the unique pastry techniques of a different country. “It was me, one other student, and the chef,” Ryan said of the intensive course (the one other student, by the way, had also been operating her own pastry shop for three years).
The culinary courses at FUA use Italy as the classroom, and Ryan traveled throughout the region on course field trips. He took a class on Italian food culture and society, and traveled to Modena to study the 25-year aging process of balsamic vinegar. Another trip took the class further north to Parma (home of parmesan cheese) to witness the curing process of Parma ham.
|Ryan traveled to Montepulciano in southern|
Tuscany with his wine-pairing class to
learn more about the grapes of the region.
(Photo courtesy of Ryan Armstrong)
Ryan also took advantage of his weekends, traveling independently across the country. He hiked the steep footpaths of the Cinque Terre, saw the sights of smaller cities like Bologna and Ferrara, lingered a little longer after finals to take in Venice, Lake Como and Rome. All in all, it was an epic semester.
“I absolutely think that everyone in the hospitality program should do it,” Ryan said of studying abroad in Florence. “If they have the means to do it, I would absolutely recommend it.”
“I think initially I wasn’t that familiar with study abroad programs and now, post-2007, I couldn’t imagine not offering this option for our students,” Tim noted. “I think especially for people who are from here and have never left—or even if they have left, but really haven’t broadened their horizon or their mindset—it really is an amazing experience.”
“I can’t imagine not having this experience for our students. I want to go be a student,” he laughed.
|If you'd like to study in Florence (or anywhere else), contact the|
Office of International & Intercultural Affairs, located on the
ground floor of Rasmuson Hall (Photo by J. Besl).
Written by J. Besl, UAA Office of University Advancement. This story originally appeared in Green & Gold News on March 11, 2015.