Last Updated on March 11, 2020 by AIFS Abroad
Why go abroad? For the food of course! Some people want to be sure they can find familiar tastes (you can) but many people want to explore the new foods and flavors (see escargot) of other countries. Food is such a huge part of a study abroad experience, because it is such a huge part of every culture. Read below to get a peek at some of our Alumni Ambassadors favorite food adventures from around the world:
Food is… an Experience
One of the foods I miss most since returning from my semester abroad in Granada, Spain last spring is, in all honesty, one that I could recreate easily if I tried. A bocadillo is just a to-go sandwich on a skinny Spanish “baguette,” more or less the same thing you take to school with you as a child. To me, however, a bocadillo always meant that I had an exciting day in store. Throughout my semester abroad, I had them when we went on excursions, whether that was an afternoon on a hike with my friends or a weekend excursion with the program to another city in Spain, like Sevilla or Nerja. My host mom, who was one of my favorite people I met abroad, always put extra care into my bocadillos. She always made three mini ones with different fillings, like a little bocadillo sampler. She’d finish it off with a piece of fruit and a few cookies. So, while I have easy access to all the ingredients to make one of my own, I just know it wouldn’t be the same. The fresh bakery bread, the loving host mom, and the incredible new adventures are what truly made the bocadillos special. Nora (Granada, Spain)
Food is… Adventure
One weekend, I was lucky enough to travel to Paris, France. As true tourists, my travel companions and I had spent the morning visiting the Eiffel Tower. Afterwards, we went in search of a French Bistro to grab some lunch. After asking for an English menu, my eye immediately caught my meal of choice. Escargot, for those who don’t know, is a cooked land snail. Yes, snail. Although this cuisine may seem bizarre to many Americans, it’s actually pretty common in many parts of Europe. Nevertheless, I was nervous. Would it be slimy? Chewy? Without overthinking it, I ordered my food.
When the plate came out, I was a little embarrassed. It came with some tools to extract the snails, and I had to ask my waiter how to use them. But man, was it worth it. They were so good! Definitely not slimy, and covering them in a garlic butter definitely didn’t hurt.
Food is a large part of culture, and I made sure to try something new everywhere I travelled abroad. Sometimes it may seem intimidating, but from my experience, I was never disappointed. Shannon (Barcelona, Spain)
Food is… Comforting
When most people think of Czech food, breakfast does not usually come to mind. Czechs are notorious for their hearty goulash, bread dumplings, and potatoes. However, one of the best meals I ever had in Prague was more French than Czech – the French toast at Café Savoy. After reading about this Café in an article prior to my trip, I was ecstatic to have stumbled across it by accident within my first week there. Cold and famished from walking around and exploring the city, I decided to opt for their all-day breakfast menu. The French toast was fluffy, sweet, and warm, which created the perfect combination on that cold February afternoon. The fruit, coated in syrup, was fresh and delicious. If licking the plate had been socially acceptable, I would have. Throughout my semester abroad, I made frequent trips to Café Savoy and soon everyone on my program was raving about the place. While there are many cultural elements I miss from Prague, I know I’ll never have French toast as good as the one from Café Savoy. Elissa (Prague, Czech Republic)
Food is… Vegetarian Sometimes
As a vegetarian in Turkey, I really had to work to find vegetarian options for all of my meals. Not because they are hard to find, but because most restaurants don’t flaunt a vegetarian section of the menu like many places in the U.S. But if you know what to look for, you’ll find vegetarian options everywhere. So if you are considering studying abroad but are worried because you are a vegetarian, don’t fret. One of my favorite Turkish dishes was Kuru Fasulye. It goes perfectly over rice or bulgur. It is a traditional Turkish white bean stew made with tomatoes, onions, and olive oil. It usually comes as a side dish, but it is very filling and can easily be eaten as a main dish. Angelina (Istanbul, Turkey)
Food is… Simple
Cacio e pepe is a traditional Roman pasta dish that consists of grated Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. The minimalism comes from poor Romans having little food to work with. This once poor man’s food is now a Roman specialty and very popular. This meal is so simple but in order to perfect it, it must be cooked just right and with the freshest of ingredients. Roman chefs compete all over the city for who can create the most delicious cacio e pepe. Roma Sparita, a restaurant in Trastevere, serves it with a delicious twist—inside a baked parmesan cheese bowl! While you are in Rome, try cacio e pepe at a variety of different places and choose for yourself which one is the best! Ariel (Rome, Italy)
Food is… Exciting
When I studied in Florence, I made some truly wonderful friends. If I had to choose my top three best friends from Italy, it would probably have to be: Pizza, Pasta, and Gelato (oh, you thought I was going to talk about human friends?)
To be quite honest, a major reason I picked Italy to study abroad was the food. Some may think a person would get sick of eating pasta and pizza every day, but with the amount of different pasta recipes and the variety of pizza types and tastes, this isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Probably one of the best pasta dishes I ate abroad was pear ravioli. This doesn’t sound like a typical Italian dish, but Italian food is more than just pizza and pasta, and it was incredible. It’s extremely difficult to pick a favorite food when I was constantly eating fresh, heavenly meals and desserts all day, every day.
A quick anecdote: when my parents were visiting, they told the waiter something like “wow, we can’t decide what to order, everything looks so delicious!” The little Italian man looked very happy and walked away. He started bringing out dish after dish. My parents didn’t really understand what was happening, and they were a little too distracted by the enchanting smells of each delightful plate. Eventually they realized that the waiter must have thought they said “we want to try everything” and reluctantly had to cut him off from bringing any more food. Nothing like a little language barrier to keep things interesting! Needless to say, my parents weren’t too upset about the tasty incident. Bridgette (Florence, Italy)
Food is… Discovery
For as long as I can remember, I have hated sour cream. I didn’t like it on tacos, baked potatoes, or even mixed into dips. I avoided it at all costs, until I came to Russia. They put sour cream, or smetana, on literally everything from pancakes to borscht to little dumplings called pelmeni. The day that I changed my opinion about my least favorite condiment was the day we went to Pushkin, a small town just outside of St. Petersburg, to see Catherine’s Palace. After taking a tour of the magnificent palace and stunning gardens surrounding it, my friends and I decided to stop at a little café to warm up and have some lunch. We hadn’t been in Russia that long so I had not sampled a lot of the cuisine yet. I decided to try the pelmeni since it seemed pretty simple. However when the dish arrived, I had no idea that there would be a huge dollop of sour cream on top. Normally, I would have sent it back and asked for it without the sour cream, but I had no idea how to communicate that to the waitress in Russian. So I decided to suck it up and try it anyways. I’m so glad I did because the sour cream absolutely made the dish. It was delicious! After that experience, I started to branch out and try a lot more Russian foods, most of which are now some of my favorites. As small as this discovery was for me, I have noticed that it has had an impact on my life since I returned to America when it comes to food. I can thank the Russians for that! Katie (St. Petersburg, Russia)