Feeding Myself Abroad

When many students go abroad I think there are a few things that they would typically be nervous about. They might ask things like, how will I adapt in a new culture and environment? Will I like my classes? Will there be a language barrier? Will I make friends? For me, however, and I bet a for a few other students as well, the main question I wanted answered was, what will I eat??

Many study abroad programs have a few different food plan options for their students. It is pretty much a given that if you are staying in a homestay in any abroad program you will receive at least one if not two home cooked meals a day from your family. This is a housing option for DIS students, but as I talked about in one of my earlier posts, I am living in a Living and Learning Community (which is essentially like an apartment-style dorm). Because of this, I generally receive no meals on a daily basis from DIS, but the program did give me a $600 food stipend card at the beginning of the semester. This card works at 3 major supermarkets around the city, but will not let me buy food at restaurants or at other stores.

In general, this $600 is a great supplement to have, especially because I know that a lot of the programs some of my friends are in do not provide any type of money for food throughout the semester at all. At the same time, $600 for a full set of groceries for 4 months is not a ton at all, so I have really had to learn how to budget. The main supermarket I shop at is called Netto. Because I live right in the center of the city, there are 3 stores within walking distance of me which is really nice. If I think I am going to get a lot of stuff, sometimes I will bike and put my groceries in my basket. (These are the times when I feel the most like a local.) Netto works for me because it has a decent variety of items, but is also pretty cheap. Some of my friends shop at stores where they know they can get higher quality things, but since I am not too picky, I mostly stick with Netto.

I will admit that I normally don’t do much shopping for myself in the States. At Amherst, most students live in dorms for all four years meaning they are always on the meal plan. While this certainly has its perks, for me it means that coming abroad has been the first time I have truly had to grocery shop solo. While shopping for myself has been easier than I thought, the hardest part about shopping in a supermarket in Denmark has definitely been not being able to understand all of the labels. It has gotten easier, but in the beginning I had no clue what I was buying. The labels for milk and yogurt look exactly the same, for example, and all deli meat is labeled with a very similar Danish word. With a little bit of help from Google Translate, the employees, and a lot of practice, I would say that I am for sure shopping like a little bit more of a local by now almost 4 months later.

While I have done okay with both shopping and budgeting, I will say that my hardest new abroad task has been cooking for myself. I have never been someone who loves being in the kitchen. As much as my mom has tried to encourage me, it just has never quite stuck. That is why being abroad solo has been such an interesting experience for me because it is forcing me to do things that I didn’t think I could do.

So you may be asking, what do I eat? Well, to be honest, I have not gotten too creative in the kitchen just yet. I eat a lot of eggs, a lot of spinach, different kinds of sandwiches, quesadillas, chicken, and pasta, mostly. These things don’t sound too exciting of course, but to be fair, this is more than I have done in the past for myself and I am actually quite proud and satisfied with what I make for myself on a daily basis. I’ve been most proud on the nights where I have made any type of full meal with a protein and vegetable. Occasionally, my whole apartment will cook a meal together. Actually, some of my favorite moments abroad have been in the kitchen of my suite. Whether it was chipping in to make a great chicken pot pie, or a stir fry with leftover items we find in the fridge or just sitting around the table laughing while people eat what they made for themselves. It’s not very glamorous, or anything close to 5-star, but it works for us as college students trying to save money.

Long story short, living on your own and cooking for yourself in a different country is not easy. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to write this post because I don’t think what I have done in the kitchen is anything super impressive or inspiring, but I would say that everyone has a different level of success. Like I said, I am learning something about myself from simply shopping and budgeting, which are great skills that I will continue to improve on later in life. Additionally, I am lucky Copenhagen has some great restaurants I can try as well! If I had stayed on campus at Amherst all four years, I would have never been exposed to this specific type of independence. It is just one of the many life lessons I have enjoyed gaining from this incredible experience of studying abroad.

 

A variety of lunch meat in blue packaging in supermarket in Copenhagen
Some of the deli meats sold in Netto. As you can see, it’s very hard to tell what each one is.

 

A dimly lit kitchen with white cupboards
The kitchen in my suite! It came with tons of things for us to use including pans and cutlery.

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