Study abroad reflections – Toasters & Tomatoes: Enjoying Breakfast Abroad

By: Brittany B., Student Services Assistant, API Texas
(former API Peer Mentor & API Granada, Spain: Hispanic Studies Semester Program)

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”  Maybe so, but for the majority of my life I have never had time for breakfast.  Perhaps you can relate.  I tend to be late for things, so grabbing an apple as I fly out the door usually makes more sense than sitting down over a cup of tea and toast…at least it did until I went to live with Ana.

I decided to study abroad during the spring semester of my junior year.  As a Communication Studies and Spanish double major, I knew I needed to go to a Spanish-speaking country where I could take courses that would count toward my degree.  After a flurry of research, the dust settled and my destination became clear: Granada, Spain.  I sealed the deal when I discovered that Academic Programs International (API) offered a Hispanic Studies program through the University of Granada that fit my course requirements perfectly.  My adventure had officially begun!

Several months of paperwork and good-byes passed, and I found myself sitting at Ana’s breakfast table before school.  I quickly grew to love the meal time I once skipped.  Ana, my host mother, always sat at the head of the table by the toaster, turning out unlimited pieces of toast until we were too full to eat any more.  Each morning she set out a tray full of jams and jellies—some of which she made from scratch—along with hot cocoa mix and chocolate hazelnut spread.  Black coffee and tea occupied their usual place by the heated milk and the sugar bowl.  One day I noticed Ana eating a different sort of spread with her toast, which I later discovered was made from fresh tomato.  She let me try it, and after she discovered how much I loved it, a bowl full of tomato spread also found a place on the tray each morning.

Yet for all the nights I counted toast instead of sheep while drifting off to sleep, no amount of tomato spread could ever compare with the delicious flavor of conversation that I enjoyed around her table.  Whether I had fifteen minutes or an hour to eat, I always looked forward to the happy morning chatter fostered by our breakfast time.  Ana helped her student guests every day with their grasp of the Spanish language and culture.  Sometimes we talked of current events, and other times of the weather.  Still other times we told Ana about our families and listened as she shared about her own.  Conversation rarely stagnated; on the contrary, my roommate and I would gladly have sat and talked with Ana all day if it were not for our classes, travel plans, and other activities in the city.  She encouraged and respected everyone, treating every student like one of the family.  And she made great toast.

For the first few weeks after arriving back in the States, I determined to continue observing breakfast time.  I even endeavored to stick with olive oil and tomato atop two pieces of toast.  Slowly, however, bowls of cereal went creeping back onto the breakfast menu again, along with eggs and fruit and yogurt among other things.  Today, I left the house—late again—with just an apple.  (Sigh.)  Así es la vida.

Perhaps it seems like nothing changed.  I will admit, sometimes I wonder the same thing.  Many people, including myself, talk about study abroad as a life-altering experience that shapes people in profound ways.  This is true!  Clearly my breakfast habits were too tough to remold, but thankfully my perspective was not.  Sitting at Ana’s table every morning shaped more than my palate; our conversation stretched my understanding of Spanish culture and history, improving my communication skills and deepening my respect for the Spanish people.  Breakfast with Ana fed my mind and heart even more than it fed my stomach.  And you know what they say: “You are what you eat.”  Living as a temporary member of her family changed my cultural palate forever.

So the next time you decide to eat breakfast—whether it means scrambling eggs and frying bacon or simply reaching for an apple on your way out the door—take some time to chew on study abroad.  Maybe you already plan to spend a semester overseas, or perhaps the idea just recently crossed your mind.  Either way, the opportunity awaits you and program providers like API make it possible.  Just think: you could spend several months digesting a whole new culture!  That sounds like a pretty satisfying meal to me.

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  1. Jeramy Johnson says

    Thanks for sharing your experiences Brittany! Now I’m curious to try tomato spread 🙂

    • Brittany says

      It’s easy to make–just take a raw, ripe tomato and rub it over a cheese grater until you’ve grated the whole thing into a salsa-like spread. No other ingredients necessary! (Unless you want to dab your toast with olive oil and dash of salt, too!) Enjoy!

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Sep 20, 2021 @ 17:45
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