Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Global & Multicultural

Study Abroad: You Are What You Eat

This blog post was written by Education Abroad Peer Advisor Julie Zhou ’17…

When I ask people where they want to go abroad, they almost always answer with a specific country name. However, when I ask them why they chose the country, they are usually at a loss of words.

There are many considerations that go into deciding which country you would like to study abroad in, including the language, class types, location of the university, etc. I would like to focus on one of my most important considerations: food.

Last spring, I studied abroad in Shanghai, China through a Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE) program. As a Chinese-American, I did not experience any culture shock; my parents taught me almost everything about Chinese culture that I needed to know. However, many of my American peers were complaining about losing weight in the beginning of the program due to not being used to the food choices.

Although it took some time for my peers to become accustomed to the food and culture, I was amazed to their openness to trying new foods that are outside of their comfort zones. Then, I asked myself, why is this surprising? It makes sense to try things that you would not necessarily try in your home country when you are abroad. I did not consciously realize why this openness is amazing until I overheard one of my peers saying that he would not eat the food at a restaurant; he explained that he wanted to wait until he could go to McDonalds later for a hamburger. While there is nothing wrong with McDonalds, I think that a huge component of having a great study abroad experience is taking the time to come out of your comfort zone, and food is an easy everyday way of doing so. All in all, be proud of being a guest to your host country, and take the time to learn more about another culture. You can have all of the McDonald’s products that you want when you come back to America. Don’t miss out on trying new foods with new friends!