Study abroad is great, but I think one of the greatest difficulties is acclimating to a new diet in a new place. This is especially difficult when you're doing a homestay and eating meals prepared by the family. Unless you're a total butthole, you eat what is given to you so as to not seem like the rude American, barring it's something you're allergic to, health reasons, etc. Even common dietary restrictions in America, like being a vegetarian, can put a relative strain on your host family for any number of reasons -- veggies can be expensive and sometimes not as readily available as they are stateside.
For me, it's been difficult transitioning to a diet that where meat is a staple. Back in Chicago, I just about never cook or eat meat -- the rare occasion is when I am cooking for friends and roommates, or eating out. But I'm a broke boy anyway, so eating out doesn't happen often. My host mom has been gracious enough to not serve me any beef or pork, and only makes dishes with chicken, turkey or fish. I also get lots of fresh veggies everyday, which is so great, but also not common when speaking to other students in my program.
This is my second time doing a study abroad program and along the way I have picked up a few things about living and eating in homestays. Oh, and some pics of what I've been eating in my homestay are included, too.
1. Eat all your veggies + fruit! And eat some more! This is the most elementary rule from when you were young. Bring it back and say it over and over again as your scarf down the broccoli and squash you haven't liked since you were six. Here in Mexico, the vegetarian options I have encountered in restaurants tend be dishes with mushrooms...mushrooms are great, but a diversity of veggies is even better and nutritious. So, when you get the veggies at home, just eat 'em. Fruit is easy because it's sweet, but eat that, too. It's rare to see fruit available at restaurants here; it's sold widely on the street, but as with street food anywhere, you have to be careful.
|Breakfast: Quesadillas filled with cheese and turkey ham, tomatoes, beans, and fruit cup of watermelon and pineapple|
2. You can ask for more or less food. There is nothing wrong with letting your host parents know that they give you too much or too little food. Nobody is tryna waste food or go hungry. In Spain, I sometimes asked for more food, but here in Mexico, I asked for less food. My host mom here is like the grandmother who is always worried you're not eating enough, so she gives us *lots* of food. But, in the end, it's better for everyone when there's less food waste. It might seem weird to ask for less or more food, but your host family wants you to be well at the end of the day...so let them help you be well.
|Lunch: Chile relleno filled with chicken, rice, beans, and tomato soup with veggies. Not pictured: Salad|
|Breakfast: Empanadas filled with cheese, pico de gallo, and beans. Not pictured: Fruit cup|
4. If some food in your homestay consistently upsets your stomach -- say something. Don't suffer through meals knowing that you'll be sitting up all night with an upset stomach. If you know there are foods that you are particularly intolerant to or allergic to, let your host family know as soon as you get there. Maybe you get there and realize that that one thing always makes you feel bad, let your host parents know right away. Like I said, they want you to be well. Give yourself a week or two to adjust to the food. You're in a new place, there's new and different bacteria, let your body do it's work, but if you're still getting sick -- say something. Chances are, you're not your host families first student from another country, they might even have some tips for dealing with the changing diet.
|Lunch: Taquitos filled with chicken, topped w beans, lettuce, cheese and a side of rice and avocado|