University of Oregon

Food and Culture in Siena

Program Overview

The Siena Food and Culture program allows you to develop fuller understandings of complex food-related issues and gain new insights into the ways in which food mediates social, political, environmental, cultural and economic processes. You will study Italian food and culture in the contexts of Siena and Tuscany, famous for their beautiful landscapes, quality of cuisine and wine, and as the birthplace of the agritourism movement. All courses are taught in English; there is no language requirement and the program is open to all majors.

The program includes ample excursions for field-based learning opportunities to many exquisite and less traveled towns and villages of Tuscany and neighboring regions.

The Food and Culture program will also include opportunities for classroom, field-based, and service learning. You will learn firsthand from everyday people: farmers, family cooks and professional chefs, and creative entrepreneurs who are building internationally recognized sustainable food businesses that preserve and celebrate regional heritage.

All majors are welcome; courses may be suitable for students in food studies, business, environmental studies, sociology, international studies, geography, humanities and anthropology.

Academic Details

You will typically enroll in two to three courses in addition to the required Food and Culture and Cross-Cultural Communications courses. All courses offered in Siena are recognized and approved for academic credit by various GEO partner institutions. Actual credit awarded is determined by the relevant department at your university in consultation with the study abroad office. Check with your study abroad advisor for more information. Courses are taught by Italian faculty who have experience teaching US students, including supplementary language tutoring offered by the site director. You will attend classes with other US students, and as part of the Cross-Cultural Communications course, you will meet with Italian students from the Università di Siena at the Language Lab or in classes at the university. Courses make use of a variety of materials and texts, all of which are provided as part of the program fee. Italian language courses are held in the afternoon.

Required courses:

Electives available:

Service Learning

An optional service learning placement is an exciting opportunity for students studying in Siena, Italy during the fall or spring to immerse themselves in the local Sienese culture. Placements vary by term. In the past students have volunteered at local retirement homes, ceramic arts programs for community members with disabilities, pre-school and elementary schools, and rescue and social services.

Take it from one of our past participants:

"The most rewarding and unforgettable experience. Teaching the children english at the kindergarten and watching the amazing sculptures the students at the ceramic studio made was great.”
-Gardenia, Italian Language and Culture Participant 2015

"Really a great experienced that opened my eyes and gave me valuable lessons that I will take with me throughout life. It was easy to get there too, made it very convenient.”
-Christopher, Food and Culture Participant in 2015

Students opting for the Service Learning placement will be required to make both a personal and professional commitment. As part of the Cross-Cultural Perspectives in Service Learning course, you will design a project in partnership with your organization host, conducting a needs and skills assessment. Over the course of the term, you will continue to develop your project, while reflecting on your involvement, and the cross-cultural context in which you are participating. At the conclusion of the program, you will present a portfolio of reflection papers, resume and project analysis. 

Your placement will be determined in consultation with the Siena Site Director once you are in Siena. It is your responsibility to work with your campus adviser to understand if or how the service learning hours will transfer back to your home campus as each school transfers credits for service learning differently. These placements hours will not be reflected on your GEO grade report. 

Faculty and Staff

Dr. Stephen Wooten, University of Oregon professor of international studies and anthropology, is the faculty coordinator for the Food and Culture track and will teach one of the program courses. He also serves as director of the UO Food Studies program, and his research includes local food systems and their social and cultural contexts.

Housing Description

Experience life as part of an authentic Italian neighborhood, living in apartments with other GEO and/or Italian students throughout the town of Siena. Some apartments are within walking distance of the GEO classroom within the old city walls, while others are in neighborhoods just outside and accessible by public transportation. No matter where you live, close by you can find small local grocers, restaurants and cafés unique to your neighborhood. Each apartment is fully furnished with beds, desks and a kitchen table and chairs. You will share a bedroom with one or two other students, as well as the common spaces (bathroom, kitchen, etc.). The kitchens are equipped with utensils, plates, glasses, cookware, an electronic oven and a gas stove. You will also receive two sets of linens and each apartment has access to a washing machine and drying rack.

Dates and Deadlines

TermYearPriority DeadlineDeadlineArrival DateDeparture Date
Spring Quarter201612/1/20151/30/20163/31/20166/18/2016
Spring Quarter20171/01/20172/01/20174/3/20176/15/2017

Priority Discounts

If your program has a Priority Deadline, complete all pre-decision application materials by this date to receive a $100 credit toward your program fee. Please note, students participating in multiple summer programs are only eligible to receive the $100 credit once.

Note: this $100 discount does not apply to priority deadlines for SIT programs.

Course Equivalencies

Actual credit awarded is determined by the relevant department at your university in consultation with the study abroad office. Check with your study abroad advisor for more information.

UO students, please refer to the UO Course Equivalency Process and the UO Office of the Registrar Course Equivalency Database.