ECC students learning from all around the world

Cooking in foreign land

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ECC students learning from all around the world

ECC's culinary team of spring 2019 back at the hotel after having cooked for the

ECC's culinary team of spring 2019 back at the hotel after having cooked for the "American Dinner."

Courtesy of Ryan Ottens

ECC's culinary team of spring 2019 back at the hotel after having cooked for the "American Dinner."

Courtesy of Ryan Ottens

Courtesy of Ryan Ottens

ECC's culinary team of spring 2019 back at the hotel after having cooked for the "American Dinner."

Valeria Mancera-Saavedra, Staff writer

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Did you know that Elgin Community College offers many study abroad opportunities in different countries throughout the world?

According to Director of International Education and Programs, Lauren Nehlsen, there are opportunities to study abroad through institutional programming as well as through consortial organizations, and at least 30 students per year are enrolled in these programs.

“Our most popular programs are in Ireland, Spain and Austria,” Nehlsen said.

On Feb. 22, a selected group of 12 ECC students, majoring in culinary and pastry arts were accompanied by Jennifer Loiacano,Director of Spartan Terrace Restaurant and hospitality professor, and Chef Instructor, Chrystie Wojcik, on a one-week trip to Semmering, Austria with the purpose of gaining new knowledge about the culture and culinary cuisine in this country.

Nehlsen states that the cost of a study abroad program varies depending on the length of time of the program, the destination and what is included. Although some of them are economical, other programs may be more expensive due to the higher cost of living, like Austria.

Even so, not only does financial aid exists for the students who decide to enroll in the programs, but also the culinary arts department organized different fundraisers to be able to solve some of the costs and at the same time, this would help the students learn even more in a different way.

“We were not only doing the events to make money,” Loiacano said. “When we were fundraising, it was really important that students were actually learning something.”

According to Loiacano, ECC has had a standing relationship with the Tourism School from Semmering for almost 30 years, in which these two schools have been allowing students and teachers to visit the schools, enriching the international experience.

During this week, the team participated in different cultural activities and visits to many tourist places in various cities such as Vienna and Graz as well as going to culinary tours and restaurants and having the opportunity to visit different food production factories.

Courtesy of Jennifer Loiacano
ECC’s Culinary Team of spring 2019 in Graz, Austria

“All these experiences give you first-hand insight to another culture,” Loiacano said. “Being able to experience it has a whole other level of truthfulness and solidifies what we are teaching to the students.”

Ryan Ottens, culinary arts major student at ECC and a member of the group, said that the best part of studying abroad is that they were exposed to so many different things and new experiences in such a short amount of time.

“I think there is one giant benefit and that is being able to experience another culture from the view of the people that live there and not just see the overly touristy spots,” Ottens said.

Loiacano also states that during this program, the team got to prepare an American-style dinner for their hosts, which is an opportunity to promote the traditions and cuisine.

When it comes to cooking, the world encompasses a great diversity of flavors, forms and procedures, which is why the students began to practice the dish they would serve several times before traveling.

“Preparing dinner is something we had to practice ahead of time,” Loiacano said. “The temperatures and measurements are different over there, so we do all of our converting before we even get over there.”

According to Nehlsen, students who are interested in applying to study abroad should make an appointment with the Center for International Education and Programs for a one-on-one appointment to discuss their interest.

“During the appointment, we explore the student’s interest in study abroad and attempt to find a program that matches the student’s interest and budget,” Nehlsen said.

Loiacano, Nehlsen and Ottens agree with the fact that expanding your knowledge can go beyond taking your respective classes at ECC and brings new ways of learning, in addition to getting to know many other cultures on your own.

“Study abroad enhances intercultural competency, global awareness and increases persistence in college,” Nehlsen said. “Students who study abroad are more likely to be open to diversity, and have an increased understanding of a foreign language and culture.”

Another benefit that these programs bring to both students and teachers, is to get to know and create friendships with people who have grown up in a country completely different from yours, which also helps to forge your own personality and points of view.

“I would recommend every student to look into studying abroad for a week, like me, or a whole semester,” Ottens said. “I think that there is so much to learn and so much to see that is completely worth it.”