Collaboration is the ticket to successful short-term study-abroad trips.
What happens when a group of Midwestern culinary/pastry students (some of whom have never left their home state) travel to Europe for a two-week study-abroad experience?
Does this sound like a lead-in to a television reality show? Well, this scenario is real, all right, and the results can sometimes be as interesting as popular television reality shows! But great things really happen every summer when a group of culinary/pastry students and faculty chaperones from Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana continue a 20-year tradition of international travel that takes them to France, Italy, Germany or Spain.
The short-term study-abroad trips are a real immersion in the cuisine and culture of the European regions and are loaded with daily excursions to fresh-food markets, vineyards, cheese producers, oyster farmers and many of the artisan food crafters that make the international culinary experience come alive to the students. Also included are classes in the culinary schools of the regions that add an academic element to the international experience. Daily excursions enhance the educational experience with visits to important historical sites that add to students’ cultural awareness, as well.
Students apply in the fall semester to participate in the summer short-term study-abroad experience and must qualify by having 30 credits hours completed in the program and a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. They must also present a portfolio demonstrating their interest in the trip. Program advisory-board members select the students by reviewing the applications and portfolios. Participating students must register for a study-abroad course that counts for the humanities elective at the college and engages them for their cultural experience with a focus on humanities studies and research on the specific towns and cities they will visit on the trip. Students then share their research with each other, which prepares them for the trip itinerary and builds community between them that helps them to be better travel companions. They are also introduced to a series of travel quotes such as, “Travel is fatal to prejudice; bigotry and narrow mindedness… Travel helps us discover we are family after all.” (Mark Twain)
Students who participate in the trips demonstrate real growth in cultural awareness and return home with a much larger worldview that impacts their careers and their communities. Consistently, I have noticed students who participate in international travel return with greater confidence that translates to greater academic and career success. It is this dynamic impact on students that makes the trips such an important tradition for the hospitality program, as it fulfills the college’s mission of changing lives.
Fund-Raising and Student Investment
Okay, if this sounds so good that you think it must be a Hollywood-produced version of reality--wait! Don’t check out on me yet! I know what you must be thinking: How can a community college afford to send students and faculty on study-abroad trips, especially in these economic times? Well, it is the unique collaborations that have developed over years of sponsoring these trips that have created what I believe to be a recipe for success for the benefit of other hospitality students and educators.
Each year the hospitality administration program at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis does a large-scale fund-raising event that provides two-thirds of the trip cost, and participating students pay the other third themselves, making them more invested in the travel experience. “April in Paris” is a seven-course wine dinner and silent auction that has grown to serve 450 people and generates the sponsorship funds for the summer short-term study-abroad trip each year. Students prepare and serve the dinner in the context of program courses, adding an experiential learning component to those courses as their practical final. Regional administration of the college provides support in marketing, event registration and sponsorship solicitation.
This event has grown each year with sponsorships, silent-auction donations and patrons, as it has become the premier regional event for the college. The event also serves as a platform to recognize program graduates who have excelled in the local hospitality industry with an award for outstanding service in the name of famed local chef, Edmond Gass. The event also provides a platform for increased community awareness of the summer study-abroad trips and generates much good will for the college. New hospitality students are attracted to the program as they learn of this great opportunity for international travel, making the trips an important element in hospitality-program-marketing initiatives, as well.
International travel can be risky business. I have heard many horror stories of educational groups that have traveled overseas and have wasted much of their time and money trying to navigate the cultural differences. The result can be disappointment for those who travel and a reverse, negative impact on cultural awareness for the students. What is fun about standing around in a foreign city waiting for the next train because the trip chaperone did not know his or her way around or did not understand the language?
The reason our trips are so impactful is the collaboration we enjoy with our trip facilitator, Michel Bouit, CEC, AAC, of The World of MBI, Inc., based in Chicago. Michel has incredible contacts around the world and creates extremely efficient trip itineraries that engage our students and chaperones in the most amazing daily excursions and meals. Michel also serves as our interpreter and guide, traveling with us on trips that he has personally scouted in advance. His personal contacts have led us from the caves of Roquefort to small family farms in the Jura Mountains of France, as well as grand multi-course meals in the halls of Bocuse Institut in Lyon. On our 2004 trip, we enjoyed a courtyard reception with Paul Bocuse outside his famed restaurant in Lyon, and he did a personal photo shoot with each student, giving them signed copies of his restaurant menu with a kitchen tour. You can’t buy those kinds of opportunities that our students will cherish with lifelong memories!
The old adage is true: “It is who you know that can make the difference sometimes.” I have found this to be especially true in our experiences with Michel Bouit guiding our international travel experiences. He not only plans the most amazing trip itineraries, but also arranges the flights, hotel accommodations, culinary-school visits and the meals. Oh, the meals! The meals truly make the trips memorable, whether it is paella by the Mediterranean, tapas in Barcelona, pasta at the Barilla Institute in Parma, or a grand multi-course dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant such as Auberge des Cimes with Bocuse-award-winning Chef Regis Marcon in the French heartland. We will never forget the meals or the chefs Michel brings us in contact with! The meals alone are to die for, but add to that the opportunity for students to meet these chefs and get tours of their kitchens, and the result is an experience that is priceless.
I believe that students should experience hospitality in order to effectively give it in their careers. International trips provide this opportunity. Our students embark on these trips with very limited dining and travel experiences, so the wonderful hospitality demonstrated helps to craft positive experiences that contribute to the overall impact this trip has on their lives. I am confident that the summer short-term study-abroad trips have allowed our students to live a dynamic international experience.
So, I encourage you to challenge yourself, your administration and your students to enjoy the benefits of international travel by developing a study-abroad program at your educational institution. In the words of Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
For more information about international travel opportunities with The World of MBI, Inc., visit www.worldofmbi.com
Jeff Bricker, CEC, M.Ad.Ed., grew up in Indianapolis and has worked in the hospitality industry for more than 30 years. He completed his culinary-arts training at Ivy Tech Community College Central Indiana, participating as a student in a summer intensive classical French cooking program at l’Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Burgundy under the direction of Anne Willan.
Bricker was founder and chef/owner of The Columns Ballroom and Catering and The Colonnade Room, which he operated for 15 years. In 2002, he joined Ivy Tech Community College, where he serves as chair of the hospitality-administration program in Indianapolis. He holds a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University and an MA degree in adult and community education from Ball State University.