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St. Cloud State 2017 Scholarship Winner - Jessica Gehrke

Ciao! My name is Jessica Gehrke, and I am in my first year in the Higher Education Administration  doctorate program at St. Cloud State University. I am very grateful to the Italian Cultural Center for their  2017 scholarship to study at the University of Macerata for two weeks as part of my doctorate program. This  is my first opportunity to travel overseas, and I am thankful for their support to help make a life-long dream  to visit Italy a reality. I look forward to not just seeing, but experiencing Italy through this immersive course,  and growing personally and professionally as is only possible through an opportunity like this.

I have been fascinated by Italy since I first learned about the country and the Italian composer Vivaldi as a child through a musical tape. (His music is still among my favorites!) I have learned more about Italy throughout my education, often through music classes, and through friends who have traveled there, hearing wonderful things about the culture, sights, and food. I am excited about this opportunity to now travel to Macerata, experience Italian culture, and learn about Italian higher education. 

I currently work for the 360 Manufacturing & Applied Engineering Center of Excellence at Bemidji State University as the Communications Specialist. 360 collaborates with educators and industry to recruit, educate, and train workers in advanced manufacturing. which is a statewide consortium of colleges. Prior to working at Bemidji State, I worked for a non-profit organization in marketing communications and completed my Master’s degree in Communication at Washington State University. I look forward to applying what I learn about Italian culture and higher education as I complete my degree and continue my career in higher education.

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you through my upcoming blog this May and a presentation after I return!

May 15, 2017

Buona sera or good evening as I am settling into my first evening here in Macerata. We arrived in Rome this morning, then rode in a van to Marcerta, arriving this afternoon. After a short rest, Dr. Imbra gave us a tour of the town, and I had my first taste of Italian food and wine!

We saw the clock tower in the piazza, where we will often meet during our time here. 


We also walked by several university buildings. The University of Macerata does not have a campus, as is typical in the United States. Rather, they have buildings around town and designate the university's buildings, as pictured above.



Finally, we had antipasto, or apptizers with vino (wine), then a supper of pizza, and finished it off with gelato--a great taste of Italy for my first evening.

May 16, 2017

I had many wonderful experiences today, but I will start by explaining the title of this post; Parlo poco italiana  means "I speak a little Italian." We had a short class in Italian to learn some basics to help us through our time here in Italy, including:

- Parli inglese? Do you speak English?
- Mi chiamo: Jessica: My name is Jessica.
- Piacere::  Pleased to meet you.
- Vorrei una coppa...gelato:: I would a cup of gelato.
- Vorrei un pezzo di pizza: I would like a piece of pizza.

Our Italian class was fun and informative. Besides learning how to order gelato and pizza, we also practice formal and informal greetings, how to introduce ourselves, and say we are students.

a heart in the foam of the cappachinoMy roommate and I having a cappachino

This morning my roommate and I went to find coffee. We both ordered cappuccinos, which were delicious. In Italy, you can order a cappuccino in the morning, but generally not after 11 a.m. We also both enjoyed the lovely artwork made with the foam.

When we went for coffee, we saw the faculty who are part of this trip. We had a few minutes, so they showed us the local teatro, or theater. Each town has its own community theater. It was beautiful!

Ceiling of the theaterThe balconies

Finally, today we met our internship advisors. I will be at the University Press. Some my projects may include proofreading, working with InDesign, and helping with their social media. My internship supervisor showed me me the office and then gave me a tour of Macerata. We stopped at her favorite building, which used to be a house, probably for a rich family, but is now a museum. I took a picture of the statues. 

Statues in an ancient Italian house

And with that, as it is time for me to go to bed, I bid you buona notte (good night)!

May 17, 2017

If you have never been to Italy, I would tell you to come so you can experience the wonderful food! During our history class today, our professore (professor) talked about how important food is in Italian culture. Many people work close to their home, so they go home at lunch to eat lunch with their family, and supper is a long affair with your family, with at least three courses. It appears keeping those connections seems to be very important in their culture.

Tonight, the president of the University of Macerata, another professor, administrators, and Italian students who came to St. Cloud State University hosted a welcome dinner for us. We had homemade pasta and ravoli, vegetables, potatoes, dessert, and coffee. It was a long dinner, but so much fun. And the food was delcious. When offering us more ravoli, the professoressa told us to eat as much as we would like to "feed your soul with food." Our history professor told us this type of cooking is a dying art since children do not want to learn how to make food from scratch. He also said it was likely future generations who visit Italy may not be able to have a meal like we did tonight. 

We also got to visit with the students from the University of Macerata who came to St. Cloud State University. It was great to see them and hear about how they are doing. 

In addition to feeding my soul with food, I also started working at my internship today. I proofread a research article that will be published in English by the university. Food was also involved though, as I went for lunch with my supervisors. 

Our group of students is also great, with each person bringing a unique perspective to this experience. This morning, we lingered over cappuccino talking about our experiences in higher education. 

I am excited to see what tomorrow will bring! Until then, arrivederci (good-bye)!

May 18, 2017

Tonight, one of the doctoral students led our evening salon, or discussion about our experiences in Macerata. He asked us to think about what we have experienced and how that will affect us in the future as we carry our experiences forward. We each shared where we were from, not the city or state, but rather the experiences, people, and things that have shaped us, which led me to how I wanted to write tonight’s blog.

I am from:


Scaletta, or steps in Italy

Orignally made for horses to travel up steep hills, scaletta are steep almost-steps that are close to a 45-degree angle. They are in many places in Macerata in the ancient city, and when you walk them, you definitely get a workout!

Pasta and tiramisu:

ravoli with pesto, tiramsu, and the restaurant  

Tonight our group tried a trattoria or a small, informal place to eat. We had homemade olive oil and bread, homemade pasta (I had ravioli in pesto sause), and tiramisu. Everything was delicious, and our group enjoyed good food and conversation.

Italian education:

The purpose of this class is to help us better understand Italian education. We compare and contrast it to what we know in the United States and use our international experiences to become better educators, administrators, and global citizens. Today, we toured Universita Politecnia delle Marche or the Marche Polytechnic University in Ancona. They teach in five areas: agriculture, economics, engineering, medicene, and sciences.


Macerata was founded in the Middle Ages. In our history class, we learned its ancient name is Helvia Recina. Walls surround the ancient city, the streets are narow and curve so you could easily run and change directions from an enemy attack, and has rows of connected houses to create additional barriers to protect the city from attack.

New friends:

Our group of seven students have quickly become new friends as we share our experiences, discuss higher education, and support each other through our Italian adventure!

Privileged: I am very privileged to be able to come to Macerata and experience studying aborad in a wonderful town! I know I will carry every person I have met or will meet on this trip and every experience with me. Macerata will now be part of where I am from.

May 19, 2017

Anyone who knows me knows I love books and libraries. Today a few of us went to the library. When we first went in, we saw the modern part, similar to what we see in America. We then were figuring out what to do when an employee pointed out the stairs opposite of where we went in, and we found the "real" library. 

This part of the library was beautiful, and to me, a fitting place to keep books. The paintings and murals are almost all original and have not needed to be restored.

Image of the library

Another library employee came to give us a tour. He spoke only Italian, but spoke more slowly so we were able to catch some of what he was saying. 

The library includes a orignal book written by Galileo and a complete set of a third and final edition of a series.


To me, being in the same room and viewing the works of people like Galileo is awe-inspriring. Visiting the biblioteca has been one of the highlights of this trip. 

The Italian Cultural Center of Minneapolis/St. Paul is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization
 528 Hennepin Ave | Minneapolis, MN 55403 | (612) 295-4111 

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