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Postcards from Salerno: Italy Inspires SLU Nutrition Student

01/31/2020

Junior Rebecca Pirtle was awed by the ruins of Pompeii and inspired by the flavors she encountered on the Mediterranean Diet Trip, an immersive winter break journey sponsored by Saint Louis University’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Pirtle and trip group.

(From left) SLU students Casey Brown, Sophie Santangelo, faculty member Todd Parkhurst, Debbie Parkhurst, students Sarah Katherine Gaston and Rebecca Pirtle  enjoy Salerno as part of SLU's Mediterranean Diet Trip. Submitted photo

For Pirtle, a nutrition and dietetics major in the department’s culinary track, the opportunity to spend two weeks in Salerno, Italy,  was exactly what she hoped for when she decided to become a Billiken.

The trip is one of the many study abroad and experiential learning opportunities SLU students can take advantage of as they complete their educations and look toward their future careers beyond campus.

Learn About the Mediterranean Diet Trip

Rebecca's Reflection

I was drawn to the Mediterranean Diet course because I knew it would greatly expand upon what we learn in our nutrition and dietetics classes in St. Louis.

We often reference the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle so I was excited to get to see how people live this way, and even to experience it myself – if only for a brief period.

As someone who is deeply interested in food and cooking, most of my favorite experiences were centered around eating and talking about cooking. While I had some preconceptions about what dishes we would be eating as part of the Mediterranean diet, a lot of the foods we tried surprised me. I am excited to try cooking some of the dishes we ate in my upcoming classes.

In my experience, Americans view the Mediterranean diet as mainly pasta, olive oil and fish, whereas it is so much more. I believe this trip will help me become a better dietician in the future.

I feel like I am more equipped to explain the variety of foods and cooking preparations present in this diet.

I wanted a college that had a robust study abroad program. SLU having a campus in Spain and offering a variety of short study abroad experiences, like the Mediterranean Diet Trip, was a big influence on my choice to come to SLU.

I am so privileged to have had the opportunity to travel to a foreign country and to briefly live amongst people with different lives.

Studying abroad is a fantastic way to learn how to understand and to respect a culture difference from your own, and then to apply that understanding and respect to everyone.


Saint Louis University is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that values academic excellence, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. Founded in 1818, the University fosters the intellectual and character development of more than 13,000 students on campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Building on a legacy of nearly 200 years, Saint Louis University continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to a higher purpose, a greater good. Learn more at www.slu.edu.

Interview by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications.