If you are reading this paper you have chosen to inquire about participating in an amazing, life-changing experience. The Marco Polo Organization sponsors culinary/hospitality learning experiences abroad. We focus on sustainable food, agriculture, hospitality and culture in all regions of Italy.
NOTE: This is not a school trip. You are traveling under the Marco Polo Organization.
Dear Culinary Professional and fellow Educator,
Are your students able to travel and experience new cultures while earning credit?
Let me introduce myself, my name is Kelly McClay. I am a retired chef, educator, and administrator. I was responsible for a two-year Associate Degree in Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry program for the past 14 years. During that time, I believed in the powerful impact of exposing students to other cultures and how they experience food. We tried many options, taking the student to France, Austria, and Italy. Each trip presented its own challenges. I wanted the students to participate in hands-on classes, and cultural events and truly experience the life of the locals. After many offerings, none of which were quite what I had envisioned I learned about Marco Polo Program abroad in Italy. Prior to COVID, we traveled six times to Italy with this company and It was exactly what I had hoped for. Students traveled for 17 days to four different regions each time experiencing hands-on classes, visits to the region’s specialized production facilities, tastings, and unique area attractions. This trip was wholly focused on the culinary experience.
Coming from a Community College environment I know the challenges of offering what is typically viewed as a four-year program benefit. Community colleges are not always prepared for the steps involved in offering study abroad programs. That was the beauty of working with Marco Polo. Let me share with you some of the challenges and how we were able to address them.
HOW DO STUDENTS PAY FOR A TRIP LIKE THIS?
Financial aid is only available for credit courses. We initially used the existing student cooperative education credit. All the students were required to do a Co-op and because we believed so strongly in the travel experience, we were willing to allow students to use the trip as their cooperative education requirement. Of course, they had additional academic requirements for the trip, journaling, essays, language lessons, and travel meetings.
After several years we were able to move the trip from the end of the spring semester to the fall. Our classes ran on a 15-day sequence and so the second class of the fall was approved for travel. This also allowed us to award full credit for the course as a substitution for advanced coursework. This increased the option of financial aid and allowed students to use their 529 funds.
The rigor of this trip, classes, and academic requirements led to the development of a full syllabus and the signing of the process for state approval. The syllabus has been approved by the State of New Jersey. The curriculum is written as a 3-credit general education course. The benefit is, the students can use financial aid as well as apply for the course to their degree requirements.
Perhaps one of the best reasons for joining Marco Polo is their support of fundraising for student travel. They have sponsored visiting Chefs that allowed for fundraising dinners, connections with leading providers of Italian specialties have sponsored dinners, provided ingredients, and offered additional educational opportunities for students.
HOW ARE THE FINANCES HANDLED?
By having the students deposit the funds with the college, no taxes are involved. Students make a deposit into a holding account, and when the final payments are made the college generates a check to Marco Polo. Students are required to have insurance, and the school makes arrangements through an insurance provider who specializes in travel programs. The fee is based on age and for students is very inexpensive. The company sent a quote, and the students made their payment through the college, again using the holding account.
If the student is using financial aid or has received scholarship funds, these are transferred to the holding account as well.
Our school has a foundation arm that has just approved awarding scholarship funds for travel abroad. For the 2022-2023 school year, the foundation allocated funds for students participating in the Italy study abroad. This emphasizes the College's commitment to providing this opportunity to culinary students.
SOME UNFORESEEN BENEFITS
Having a study abroad program that is designed specifically for culinary students (they do have a program for sustainability as well) will give your program a unique marketing edge, provide an enhanced positioning on campus, and gives your students a life-changing perspective on food, ingredients, and technique not to mention future travel.
So if you have questions or if I can assist you in offering your students a new perspective on the world, I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.
Wishing you good food, great meals with friends, and an enriching school year.
As a participant on this trip you are required to follow the rules/guidelines that Marco Polo has established for a safe, learning environment. Any breach in those rules/guidelines , either before we leave or when you are traveling with the Organization will result in the forfeit of any deposits on the trip and can also result in you being sent home during the trip with no refund on travel not completed.
These rules- guidelines, pertain to all participants on the trip, regardless of age or student status and are clearly explained in the agreement. NO EXCEPTIONS.
See below for more information.
What can this Trip do for you?This is a one in a life-time experience to gain valuable work knowledge in the industry of sustainable food service and hospitably. It is perfect for those studying to be chefs, nutritionist / dietitians, those who want enter the hospitably or wine industry. It is very focused on sustainability of our food and agriculture systems and the future of our industry. It is hands on training that you will be able to place on your resume. See individual itineraries but you will have training in Italian cooking schools, DOA food products (visit production), cheese, hams, chocolate, coffee university, wineries, sustainable farms, hotels, and more.
What is Expected of you on this Trip?On this trip you are a participant of the Marco Polo Organization. If you chose to travel, you are agreeing to fully participate in the program and all activities. No person on the trip can decide to op-out of the day’s activities, unless extreme and real circumstances become an issue, such as illness or accident. You are expected to interact with your travel class and participate in all discussions. This is a learning excursion. An open classroom experience. It is suggested you keep a travel journal. As of now there is no course attached to the trip, but I will still function as your instructor to school you in the food, culture, sustainable development, etc., regarding what you are experiencing each day. This is especially important for those using the trip for an internship or another class fulfillment, such as a Food and Culture course. You should not choose to attend the trip if you do not possess a great interest in the food service industry and a desire to learn about the culture of Italian food and agriculture production. You do not have to know how to cook or have taken a cooking class to participate in the trip. The trip is designed for those interested in the food service and hospitality industry. Behavior Expectations: All people on the trip are expected to behave like adults. You are a representative of the Marco Polo Organization and an American traveling abroad. You are expected to dress appropriately- more information to follow on this. There are alcohol and drug restrictions on the trip. Wine is served with dinner, but no other drink is acceptable at meals, regardless of your age. No excessive alcohol consumption is tolerated after the day ends and everyone returns to their assigned rooms. When the day’s events and meals are over, all participants on the trips are expected to return to their rooms and prepare for the next day's activities. As stated, our days start early and end late. We suggest you get rest and be ready and fresh to participate the next day. There are no days off on the trip. We have scheduled activities each day- even weekends. Leaving the hotel after hours is not recommended and will be discussed more at a later date. No lateness is tolerated. You must be ready to travel to your first activity at the time posted for the day. We keep a very tight schedule. Buses and trains will not wait for you. Participants on the trip are expected to be respectful to their instructor, all support staff, and their fellow travelers in their group. This includes activities, meals, and traveling. *Any issues should be reported to the instructor or support staff immediately. No illegal drugs are allowed on the trip. Instructors and support staff have the final say on circumstances that may arise between people traveling in the group. If behavior expectations are unmet, you may be asked to return to the US before the trip ends. *Note: This trip is designed for students to have fun, experience new things, see world-renowned sights, make friends, network, and learn about the culture of Italy. It is also designed to enhance their resumes in the food industry. It is not a vacation with your friends. Students agree to travel with a group for a hands-on learning experience. If you are looking to party on a vacation- this is not the trip for you. Who can go: You must be at least 18 years of age, and in good health. You must be able to walk several miles per day. We start each day early and end late. Each day has multiple activities and includes travel between activities. Any student/non-student who shows a true interest in learning about the food culture of Italy. Priority is given to those students who are enrolled in a culinary, hospitality, nutritionist, or sustainable education program or a person who has graduated from a program or is actively working in the food service industry. Cost of Trip: Cost is determined based on the itinerary and how many persons are traveling. Trips vary and are from 11 days to 3 weeks, depending on the trip scheduled. The minimum number of people to travel is 12- the maximum is 18. The cost will be announced at the first meeting and can be subject to change until all spots are filled for the trip. For what is included in your cost- see below.
What do you need to do if you want to join the next trip?Give your name and contact information to faculty. Visit the Marco Polo website to get a better understanding of the organization and trips offered and when. If necessary- speak to a parent or guardian for permission- we encourage parental involvement. Attend an orientation meeting with other persons interested in the trip. Personal interview with Chef Bove to discuss why you want to travel with Marco Polo and to ensure your understanding of the trip and what it entails. YOU MUST HAVE A VALID US PASSPORT or be able to obtain one immediately to be considered. Fill out all agreement papers. Give the first nonrefundable payment for the trip.
What Happens After You Secure Your Travel Spot?You will have a spot held for you on the next trip after the above requirements are fulfilled. Positions are on a first-come, first-serve basis. You must hand in your emergency contact information form. This must include any dietary restrictions and important medical information affecting your safety and comfort on the trip. You must give a copy of your current, valid passport- this is needed to purchase the airfare and secure hotel accommodations. You will need to purchase a travel insurance policy- information will be provided. This must be done no later than two weeks before you travel but can be done anytime after you secure your place on the trip. Meetings with those traveling will be held periodically to provide updated information to help you prepare for the trip; attendance is required. Note: If any of the above requirements are not met you may lose your place on the trip, as well as your deposit. We cannot hold positions. Roommate Assignments: We will be staying in several hotels throughout the trip. All the hotels are in the center of the cities we are visiting, in very safe areas. Breakfast is included in all hotels. As with many European hotels, some have air conditioning and refrigerators, and some do not. Rooms are either doubles or triples. We encourage you to have travel “buddies” and will honor as best as we can. The earlier you tell us, the better chance you have of securing what you want. If it is necessary for you to have your room- please let us know. It is possible with an additional fee. Once again- the earlier we are informed of this, the better.
What is included in your Trip?See the specific agreement that pertains to your itinerary- but all Marco Polo study abroad trips include in the price: airfare, hotels, all transportation (buses, trains, ferries), all meals, except several during free periods, and all fees associated with activities you will be participating in. Your only extra expenses are your travel insurance policy, transportation to the airport when leaving the US for Italy and when we arrive back in the US (see below for more information), anything you purchase, and the several meals (3-4 depending) during your free time period. Travel to and from the Airport: Please arrange your transportation to the airport and back. I suggest ride-sharing with those living close to each other or getting a friend or family member to drop you off and pick you up. Marco Polo cannot provide transportation for this. We leave from JFK or Newark, depending on the time of year and destination. INTERNSHIPS: If you are planning on using this as part of your internship, you must have this approved by your individual school. If you are a Nassau Community College student, please see Chef Gibson and make arranges to take the internship course either, the hospitality or culinary course, in the summer or in the fall/spring semesters, depending your schedule. Also remember to add this training experience to your resume. I suggest doing this when you return so you can be more specific and tailor it to your job search. Travel checklist: suggestions for the trip: Below are suggestions to help you have a good experience on your trip. You will need adaptors for your electronics. These can be purchased from Amazon or at PC Richards or Best Buy. Check your cell phone plan. Some plans include international travel, and some will require you to add a temporary upgrade to your plan. This is important. You will need your phone when we are traveling, and hot spots are unreliable. Most of the hotels will have free Wi-Fi, but we will be spending a lot of time outside of the hotels. When we get the hotel assignments, you can check with individual hotels for more information. Before leaving, call your credit card provider for all cards you plan on using and explain you are traveling out of the country. Find out if there are any international fees. I also suggest leaving copies of cards with someone at home in case of lost of stolen. Be proactive. A small amount of Euros for travel is advised. You should not carry too much cash. 100-200 euros is more than enough if you find yourself in a place that does not take credit. You can order this from your bank before you leave- Chase Bank can get it for you in just a few days. Or you can use an ATM when you arrive in Italy. You will probably get a better rate of exchange before you leave. Our suggestion is to use your credit or debit card – it is safer, and you will get a good exchange and have a receipt of anything you purchase. Regarding the Euros, if you have any left after the trip, you can exchange them when we return. Remember all your expenses are covered in the price of your trip except for several meals and anything you purchase. Once you make your final payment, you are done. Remember to give your emergency sheet to us before we leave if you have not done so already, and include all meds you are taking. Do not pack your meds- include them with your carry-on and ensure you take enough to get through the trip. Keep your passport safe- I suggest an inexpensive passport holder which will also have a space for your vaccination card, an insurance card, a few euros, and other important documents you need to carry. I am not plugging Amazon, but they have inexpensive passport/wallet combos to minimize what you carry. Be selective about what you take with you. Anything you don’t need -don’t take. If possible, don’t take your home keys. You are allowed one check-in bag, no more than 50# pounds, and one carry-on. Please do not overpack- leave room for anything you may purchase. See individual airlines' specific requirements. At the writing of this paper – I do not know what airline we are flying on or exactly when. Most likely, we will be doing an overnight flight. I suggest you take snacks with you- power bars are a good choice. I always travel with them. We suggest a camera and travel journal to record your special experience. We will be video recording the whole trip for Marco Polo, but any extra photos or video would be appreciated. Plan out your clothes. It is okay that you wear the same thing- we will not mind. Take a good look at what you are bringing and mix and match. Below are some packing suggestions specific to your trip. One set of sleepwear One good pair of walking shoes- shoes take up a lot of space in suitcases- keep it to a minimal One chef jacket. Enough underwear and socks - you can always rise things out at night in the hotel. Some hotels will have areas for you to do laundry, but do you really want to do this. Weather and Clothing: The weather can really swing in the spring in Italy. It can be unseasonably hot or cold, and as we travel, the weather can be very different in each area. Below are some suggestions we have found to be true in the past. Be comfortable- choose your clothes based on the fact that we are traveling about each day, and you will be doing a great deal of walking. One light jacket, preferably a lightweight blazer, for dinners and/or cooler days. We are going to Northern Italy in the Spring. Temps will run in the 70’s and sometimes can get even cooler especially the further North we go. Try and be prepared if the days start to cool and get warmer – we will be outside much of the time. A tasteful sweatshirt or hoodie is okay also. Suggested - Take a lightweight raincoat; umbrellas are awkward. Suggestion- no shorts or shirts with no sleeves. Italy has modest rules, and many places do not allow shorts or bare shoulders. If you insist on wearing shorts or no sleeves – you may not be allowed into certain buildings. Baseball caps are okay. Jeans are okay during the day, but try and take some type of non-jean pants for our better dinners or nicer places we will be visiting. Our itinerary is subject to change and may require no jeans. Dress on the side of conservative -Men can’t go wrong with polo-type shirts, no suggestive T-shirts. Women, same thing. Sleeveless is fine if you cover up with a blazer or some type of jacket or shoulder cover. Since most of you will have roommates, try and share sundries. For example, share toothpaste, shampoo, etc. When packing up to return home, discard as much as possible, for example, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. All hotels provide hairdryers. We also suggest a few “just in case,” for example, pain relievers, travel stomach and/or diarrhea meds, or anything else you think you may need. We suggest you share this also. Always pack your suitcase and never let anyone into it without your permission, and please look at your bags. You will be advised what you can and cannot buy to take back with you. This is especially true regarding alcohol and food items. Remember Italy is a fully developed, beautiful country- if you forget something you can get it, but try and minimize what you will need to purchase for a comfortable trip. Leave a copy of your passport at home and copies of your credit card numbers in case of loss. You will have a complete itinerary of where you will be going to leave with your emergency contacts at home. You can also leave my cell phone and Giacomo’s with that person.
Final Thoughts:The Marco Polo company is completely aware that you are an adult, but we require your cooperation to create a safe travel environment for all on the trip. You are expected to be on time for all travel. You are not expected to wander off or leave the group. In the evening, all are expected in the hotel rooms- the days are busy, and we start early in the morning- so get some rest. This is especially important on that first day – when adjusting to the time change, etc. Please stay with your travel buddy and always tell us where you are. Everyone is expected to follow the rules.
Alcohol Policy:Wine is and will be an important part of your experience. No one is required to drink or taste the wine or other alcoholic beverages at the wineries or during meals if they do not want to. Those who choose to participate in the wine tasting are expected to so with the proper behavior. Marco Polo has a strict alcohol/drug policy. Anyone getting drunk or unruly will be removed from the group and escorted to the nearest airport and sent home. No Exceptions.