Eating it up while studying abroad

Alex Cabral is an API Madrid Peer Mentor.

Ok. So you’ve been accepted to your abroad program, you’re all packed up, and your flight leaves tomorrow. You’re probably nervous, excited, anxious, or a combination of the three. You have also probably done your fair share of research regarding customs, style of clothing, and food. Wait…food?

Yes, food. Some people may not think too much about this before leaving, but it is definitely something to think about. It is important to remember that wherever you are going will have different cuisines from what we are used to here in the United States. Don’t fret, however. This is a great thing. Part of being abroad is opening yourself up to new experiences and pushing your boundaries a little bit. It is important how to learn to adapt and function wherever you might be. You may be tempted to explore the KFC, Burger King, or McDonald’s in your new host country, but please…don’t!

Each and every country has its own unique diet. Coming from Spain myself, I learned quite quickly that tomatoes and potatoes, as well as onions, are very popular complements to a heavy protein diet. Small breakfasts of a muffin and coffee were also very common. I remember hearing many of my comrades complain about the food, but stop and think for a second: if you were a Spaniard studying in the United States, how would you feel about all of the processed foods we consume?

There are definitely alternatives wherever you may end up studying. If your diet isn’t as rich in fruits or vegetables as you would like, try going to the market. Just like in the US, we all have control about what we put into our bodies. Being abroad should be no exception. So, before you knock a nation’s diet, at least give it a try! I vividly remember my first few weeks in Madrid, when all the Americans clung together and looked for new restaurants. I am an adventurous eater, so were my friends, so we were up for pretty much anything. I remember going to a really cool restaurant with my friend Liz, where she tried the white fish while I attempted to eat the tail of a bull. It was very different, but the meat was so tasty that I was extremely glad I had taken the risk of trying the new food.

The best advice I can give is to try everything as soon as you arrive. You will quickly discover what you like, what you don’t, and you may even surprise yourself by giving a dish a chance that you had anticipated you wouldn’t like (as in my case with the bull’s tail). Above all, don’t disrespect the cuisine of your host country! To its inhabitants, the cuisine is something of great pride and nationality. Before turning up your nose, bring it to the plate and give the new experience a shot.

Alex Cabral is a senior at Saint Michael’s College, majoring in Psychology and Spanish with a minor in Biology.

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  1. Seconded! 🙂

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