No matter where you decide to study abroad, indulging in the local cuisine is an essential part of the study abroad experience.

When I learned that Rome, Italy was going to be my study abroad destination, one thing I wanted to check off of my study abroad bucket list was taking a traditional Italian cooking class. I mean, I’m basically living in the motherland of good food, so it would be silly of me not to take one. Shoutout to all of the amazing pasta, pizza, gelato and wine I consumed for the past 3.5 months.

My host university in Rome provides their students with several opportunities throughout the semester to take cooking classes with an Italian chef. For only 20 euros, I had the opportunity to learn how to prepare various Italian dishes, and then feast on a three-course dinner. Sounds like a good deal, right? Well, it was probably the most satisfying and filling meal I had during my entire time abroad.

#SpoonTip: If you decide to take a cooking class, do yourself a favor and wear your fat pants. You’ll thank me later.

You Learn to Cook the Regional Cuisine

cooking class

Photo by Devon Tallman

The chef focused the menu on seasonal and regional ingredients such as fresh tomatoes, pumpkin and dough. As someone who was desperately missing all of her favorite fall foods, I admittedly squealed with joy when it was announced that we would be making pumpkin pasta and apple cake.

These carefully selected and organic ingredients made the dinner feel extremely special, as it was something I would never have been able to find at any other Italian restaurant, let alone at home in the states.

You Get to Meet New People

cooking class

Photo by Abigail Wang

I’d like to note that I did not know any of the other students personally before taking this cooking class, and that is perhaps a major reason it turned out to be such a fun experience. Sure, lots of people in the class had come with a friend or two, but I realized that there is a real truth to the idea that cooking and eating good food together creates bonds between people.

Whether it was laughing together about how loud and exuberant the Italian chef was or sharing our abroad experiences over a delicious dinner, I felt like I had made instant friends within a mere three hours. And when you are thousands of miles from friends and family at home, that’s an amazing feeling.

You Gain an Appreciation for the Local Culture

cooking class

Photo by Devon Tallman

Taking this cooking class also provided me with more respect for how much passion, love and time goes into preparing an authentic Italian meal. I have learned that there is a genuine beauty in the Italian dining experience. From start to finish, cooking and eating food is a sensory experience for Italians.

Every ingredient is viewed with careful attention to its taste, touch, smell, sight and even how it sounds. When you learn how to slow down and actually appreciate what you are making or what you are eating, you open yourself up to a whole new cooking and dining experience.

You Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

cooking class

Photo by Ashley Hamati

If you are hesitant to try a cooking class in fear of accidentally burning something or dropping food on the floor, don’t be scared to try it. That is exactly what studying abroad is about anyway; constantly stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying new experiences that help you grow as a person. You’ll be happy you took a cooking class and trust me, your stomach will be even happier.