So you’re studying abroad and everything is all figured out. You’ve picked your city, you’ve chosen between a homestay and an apartment, and you’ve packed your bags. Nothing can go wrong! Oh wait… there’s just this one little issue… You’re a vegetarian and have no idea what you’re going to do about eating. Whether you’re gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or just really picky. Studying abroad can open up a pandora’s box of problems if you don’t prepare yourself. I myself have been a vegetarian for two years and a pescetarian for one, going abroad definitely has its challenges. Here are some ways to survive abroad as an herbivore.
Tell your host.
A lot of schools will ask you to fill out a questionnaire based on your dietary preferences before arriving abroad. This is intended to help prevent that awkward “oh I don’t eat that” exchange on your first night at the dinner table. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out that way. When I arrived abroad my host mom had no idea that I was a vegetarian and very quickly scrambled to make enough for me to eat on my first night. I had filled out a questionnaire but somehow that information never made it to my host mom. After that she was extremely accommodating to my dietary preference.
2. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions.
My host mom had no idea what to do with a vegetarian. I was studying in Spain where ham is the ultimate king. One day we sat down together and discussed all of the possible proteins I would eat. Lentils, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, etc. My host mom was very interested in learning new recipes, I even taught her how to make guacamole. Tofu and tomate frito became my favorite meal. You’ll be there for 4 months, don’t be scared to tell your host what you do and do not like.
3. Be open to trying something new.
Before I studied in Spain I had absolutely zero interest in eating fish. I became a vegetarian for health reasons and was just really never interested in eating my ocean friends. One day my host mom made an elaborate meal of cod and potatoes, she offered it to me and I couldn’t say no. Ever since then I have been a pescetarian.
4. Watch your protein and take your vitamins.
Traveling is the perfect time to lose track of your nutritional intake. Those of us who don’t eat meat are prone to iron and protein deficiencies. Protect yourself and make sure you’re taking B12 and Iron, you can find these vitamins at pharmacies all over the world. Coming from someone who has almost been hospitalized for low iron, take your vitamins, you’ll thank me later! For protein make sure you’re eating plenty of eggs and beans daily. Cheese alone does not provide sufficient protein. Carbs rule in countries like Spain and Italy so make sure you’re getting protein somewhere.
5. Bring your favorites with you.
When I studied abroad I packed tons of peanut butter and protein bars. These staples really helped me stay on track while I was traveling the weekends without my host mom’s maternal eye making sure I was getting the nutrition I needed.
6. Do your research.
Google vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the area of your study abroad city. Websites like trip advisor provide tons of info for cities as small as mine, Salamanca. Many of these places have tons of options for every eater. Sometimes it might take a little begging, but your friends will be glad they tried something new, and you’ll be excited to order something other than pasta.