College of Ag Sciences students sample Greek cuisine and culture while traveling

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences explored Greece’s rich culture — and its food — while studying abroad in Thessaloniki, Greece this summer.

Providing this opportunity to Penn State students was important to Chris Sigler, assistant professor and academic advisor in the Department of Food Science. Her goal was to help her food science students expand their experiences outside of the classroom and create networking opportunities.

“I believe that when students look back on their college careers, they should feel like these courses have broadened their experience and understanding of what they’re studying,” Sigler said.

With support from the college’s offices of undergraduate education and agricultural science, Sigler worked with Helen Yarenis, study abroad coordinator of marketing and communications for Perrotis College — part of the American Farm School of Thessaloniki – to allow Penn State students to earn credit while participating. in a six-week study abroad program organized by Perrotis.

Students could take two courses – “Mediterranean Diet” or “Greek Wine Business” – or participate in an internship or research. They also studied Greek culture and language and visited historic sites, such as Mount Olympus and the Parthenon, and traditional sites, including a mussel farm and a cherry festival. And, of course, they learned how to prepare traditional Greek dishes.

Lauren Wolf, a sophomore in food science, opted for the Mediterranean Diet course. She said excursions and field trips across Greece gave her hands-on experience.

One of the most interesting things Wolf learned on her trip abroad, she said, is the importance of the agricultural industry in Greece. Additionally, she learned about the health benefits of seafood and its role in the Mediterranean diet.

She also found that her time abroad allowed her to connect with other Penn Staters and meet students from other universities, which helped her be more open to new experiences.

“Studying abroad helped me develop my independence while traveling to Greece,” Wolf said. “Plus, I think it’s helped me become more outgoing and connect with others.”

Catarina Rodrigues, a third-year food science major, has an interest in product development and chose to do research at Perrotis which focuses on the development of gluten-free and dairy-free snack products. She and her partner cooked food and analyzed its water activity, colors, textures and other characteristics.

“People would come for taste tests and tell us their favorite samples,” Rodrigues said. “I just remember feeling so excited at that time, just to do something that was related to food science, which gave me confidence in choosing my major.”

The experience also allowed them to meet food science majors from other universities, including Ohio State, Purdue, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech.

“They’re now learning what it’s like to meet other food scientists – because food science is a very small field – and they have the opportunity to start networking and collaborating with other food scientists. other students from different universities, who might be students that they end up working in the field in the future,” Sigler said.

Sigler plans to work with Perrotis College to expand the program. He also plans to bring a small group of students back to Perrotis as part of an integrated spring course, Food Science 460: International Food Production.

“Global engagement is key to building interpersonal skills and broadening global perspective,” said Ketja Lingenfelter, associate director of global student engagement for Ag Sciences Global. “The international immersion and hands-on experiences not only allow students to learn skills that are not usually developed in the classroom, but also to discover facets of their potential career on a global level.”

This course supports the college’s Sustainable and Accessible Study Abroad initiative, which encourages students to incorporate sustainable practices into their study abroad experiences and makes study abroad accessible to all. students.

Further information on study abroad opportunities through the College of Agricultural Sciences is available by contacting Lingenfelter at [email protected] or by visiting

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