College of Health Solutions students and faculty traveled to Italy and Greece in June to study abroad for the first time since the pandemic.
After experiencing the stress of the pandemic for the past few years, students and faculty shared how studying abroad last summer left them feeling rejuvenated and having unforgettable experiences.
“Burnout and stress are so high right now, and we’re all reeling from being in a state of high anxiety because of COVID,” said Cassondra McCracken, a senior lecturer in healthy living who traveled with students to Greece. “This trip gave the students a chance to practice what it feels like to slow down, accept and heal.”
Exploring the relationship between health and the Mediterranean diet
Christina Shepherd, clinical professor of nutrition and director of a dietetic internship, traveled for three weeks this summer with 16 students to Rome and parts of Tuscany and Bologna to study the region’s nutrition, culture and cuisine, focusing on how consumption of a Mediterranean diet affects health.
“Rome, in particular, has a unique food heritage, which makes it interesting to learn about the history of the area and how their dietary patterns and traditions came about,” Shepherd said.
Students explored food and nutrition from production to consumption by participating in cooking classes and visiting farms and producers of olive oil, wine, cheese and balsamic vinegar. They also joined guided tours of food markets and other popular tourist destinations.
Students were enrolled in two courses: NTR 348: Cultural Aspects of Food and NTR 351: Nutrition and Health Communication.
“Don’t think,” Fami said. “Just do it. Go on that trip, spend the money, enjoy your life and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Traveling abroad with ASU means you get a unique experience that you could never have on your own or with a tour guide.’
Unlocking Ikaria’s Secret to Longevity
McCracken joined 10 students in Ikaria, Greece, for 16 days to study healthy lifestyles, social connectedness and longevity on the Greek island, designated as Blue Zone — one of the five longevity hotspots in the world with the longest-living residents.
“Many islanders live to be 90 and beyond and are healthy — without dementia or other chronic illnesses,” McCracken said. “These elders are active in their community and are an important part of the island’s culture.”
Students in the program enrolled in CHS 300: Research on well-being with both EXW 302: Essentials of Wellness: Exploring the Blue Zones or EXW 400: Managing stress for health.
Students immersed themselves in the history, traditions, healthy lifestyle and culture of Ikaria by cooking and eating a Mediterranean diet, hiking through the scenic mountain slopes, taking an afternoon siesta and swimming in the crystal clear sea.
Students also had the opportunity to visit a local festival, hot springs, beaches, honey house, yoga/meditation center and more while experiencing the slow, highly social and physically active lifestyle of ththe inhabitants of the island.
Ashley Lozacco, a senior studying education with an emphasis in personal health, said one of the most memorable parts of her trip was learning how to prepare local meals with fresh produce.
“We had a wonderful class from Thea, a local restaurant owner, where she taught us how to prepare local dishes with fresh food from her farm,” Lozacco said. “I felt like I was in a lifestyle magazine on her farm under a beautiful lush shed with a large farm table and handmade benches.”
For those interested in studying abroad, the two programs in Italy and Greece will be offered again in the summer of 2024 — with dates to be announced next fall. Applications are not yet available, but students can sign up to be added to the Blue Zones interest list and the nutrition, health and diet interest list to be notified when applications open.
Students who wish to participate are also encouraged to obtain their passports as soon as possible and apply for scholarships offered by the Global Education Office if they need financial assistance.
Story by Mindy Locke, Digital Content Producer, College of Health Solutions.