Cooking While Studying Abroad: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

December 12, 2018

Back at home, cooking faces little challenges. The main hurdles that the average college student has to overcome are to get over waves of laziness to purchase groceries and prepare the food. However, cooking while abroad can prove to be a whole new challenge. Students will typically resort to microwave TV dinners, cafeteria food, or scavenge at university events for anything edible. Those brave enough to cook in their dorms or apartments will quickly learn to appreciate home-cooked food. The typical study abroad student will face 5 situations whilst cooking food:

1. The Good: The Edible Concoctions

We’ll start with the good news. There will be times where your own two hands prepared something worth digesting. Relying on your previous experience with microwaves will usually yield this result. If you are truly gifted, stove top prepared food could end up in this category as well. Likely meals include pasta with marinara sauce (from a jar of course), ramen, oatmeal, hot dogs, ground beef, and mac n cheese.

2. The Bad: The Failures

I must admit, given the delicious menu presented before, I couldn’t fathom attempting anything else! Success builds up our confidence in the culinary arts and then we become adventurous. Unfortunately for you, and to the humor of your roommates and friends, some experimenting can go south pretty quickly. With my mom on the phone in one hand and a wooden spoon frantically mixing a pot is how I have had to miserably accept my fate. Likely foods in this category can include rice, beans, some meats, omelets, food from home, and sweets such as cookies and cupcakes.

3. The Ugly: The Attempt at Local Cuisine

Although some of us learn to accept failure and learn from it, others consider that failure as exponential growth in their culinary skills, where the confidence boost multiplies. While studying abroad in a new country, many of us will undoubtedly try local cuisine. With that said, the desire to learn how to make a particular dish while living there can arise as well.

With limited resources and knowledge, I embarked on the mission to make legemats (bite-sized Arabian sweet dumplings). I found a flour mix and date syrup in the supermarket and thought to myself, “Looks easy enough, just add water, fry the batter, and coat in the date syrup”. The result was legemats that looked like sweet and sour chicken and were about the size as the palm of my hand. As ugly as they were, they tasted delicious! Why are we going through all this trouble while we’re studying abroad? For some, it’s a way to save money, because ordering food every day and eating out can get expensive pretty quickly. For others, it’s a pretty effective way to procrastinate. All in all, making sure you are nourishing yourself adequately is a necessity, so roll with the punches, and most importantly, have fun with it!

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