A Master’s in Coffee

3_13 6-CIt has been a little over a month now and I have been enjoying everything from the food to walking around the plazas at night. Many of us from foreign countries are learning to eat new foods, interact with the new culture, and drink authentic Italian espressos everyday.  At moments, I think some of us are starting to miss home and our loved ones. However, sometimes while I sit in class, I realize how grateful I am for this opportunity. Not many people in our industry have the education we are acquiring, or have the opportunity to leave their everyday life to learn about what they love in a new country.
I am pretty sure that when I mentioned enrolling in a Master’s in Coffee Science and Economics, people immediately assumed that this would be a relaxed five month program consisting of heavy coffee drinking and learning how to make lattes.  However, it is quite the opposite (except maybe for the heavy coffee drinking). The classes are quite loaded in Science, Agronomy, and Economics. In the first month we have been immersed in intense classes of Genetics, Botany and Physiology, Industrial Processing, International Sourcing, Complex Systems Management, and Soil Chemistry.
As a class we have gotten to know each other much better and we have really connected. I can say that I have met some incredibly kind and genuine people here, and made some great friends. So far, one of my favorite parts has been the interaction of various cultures in one place, and constantly learning from one another. In class discussions, we learn about each other’s countries and coffee practices; but outside the class, as we regularly interact, we can actually experience a little of each other’s countries, traditions, and individual characteristics. I have already learned so much simply by having conversations with my classmates. On a daily basis, if discussing a topic, I am able to hear the perspective from a classmate from the United States, as well as hear the viewpoints from my classmates from Brazil or India. It is truly a unique experience.
Even though we have had our share of fun since arriving to Italy, you can definitely feel the stress rising as we have started to have tests every week and the material is accumulating. Having a degree in Business Administration, I can tell you that the toughest day so far, was the first soil chemistry class. I was completely lost. Thankfully one of our classmates is a Chemist, and already doing her P.H.D., which involves the research of a certain compound in coffee, and she will help all of us that do not have a Chemistry background to get prepared for the test (Thanks Elena!) My primary incentive for this class is that this will be a basis for our other Agronomy classes that hopefully will teach us how to understand soil analysis, and what nutrients to apply to coffee plants in different situations. You never know, this might be useful someday!
Almost everyday, we receive classes at the Ernesto Illy Foundation establishment, which is right besides the IllyCaffé headquarters. Just learning at the premises of a respected company such as Illycaffé is a great advantage, but I will talk a little more about this next month. In case you did not get a chance to read the first part of this series you can check out CoffeeTalk’s February issue to learn more about this Master’s in Coffee and how I got here. And keep tuned for next month’s article as I continue to share a little more about my experience here in Italy.
Twitter @Ashleyprentice01

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