Student Advice: How to Maintain Your Health While Studying Abroad

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IES Abroad
May 2, 2019

Let’s face it, college life is busy. Between running around for class, writing papers, working on group projects, and juggling a social life, it can be difficult to find time in your schedule to take care of your health.

That difficulty remains when you study abroad, but there are lots of ways students manage to live healthy lives despite their chaotic schedules. We asked our student Ambassadors how they maintained their health while studying abroad, and whether it was through walking everywhere, hosting potlucks, or simply asking for help, we were pleased to hear that success meant sticking to the basics.

Read on for what they had to say:

Eating Healthy

"Studying abroad in Italy surrounded by carbs upon carbs sounds heavenly at first, until you’re halfway through your program and your jeans feel a tiny bit tighter. I love pasta as much as the next girl, but I made sure to eat healthy breakfasts and lunches to compensate for my carbonara dinners! I loved taking advantage of the local markets with fresh fruits and veggies. The accessibility to fresh food while abroad was amazing, and I definitely recommend utilizing the markets for all of your healthy meals!”—Nicole Scelta (IES Abroad Rome | Penn State University)

“In terms of maintaining my physical health, I tried to eat lots of fruit and vegetables and drink plenty of water. It was hard when surrounded by fried cheese empanadas and manjar (dulce de leche of Chile), but I managed to find a good balance of healthy and non-healthy food."—Lily Harwood (IES Abroad Santiago | Case Western Reserve University)

“I found maintaining my health to be a bit of a challenge, as it was the first time I was truly cooking for myself. Once I was more acquainted with the foods available in my nearest grocery store, Lidl, I made sure to plan out my meals for the week before going grocery shopping. I also tried to cook meals with others as often as I could. A large group of us who lived in the same place would have a potluck every few weeks where each group would bring a healthy dish, and we would all eat together. It was a great way to eat healthy and make some new friends, too!”—Molly Maeve Lusk (IES Abroad Dublin | University of Iowa)

Getting Exercise

“There was a gym in the building of my apartment, so I went there with some people in my program. Aside from the gym, there is a ton of walking to do as you are sightseeing and walking to class. My favorite form of exercise was walking from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach along the beautiful paths and cliffs. There is no better way to sightsee and exercise than taking in the beauty of Australia and all it has to offer.”—Rachel Usen (IES Abroad Sydney | Rutgers University)

“I did a ton of walking and hiking while I was abroad since I was trying to take every opportunity to travel! I also biked to class every day. Both of those things had the side effect of keeping me in shape. I also joined a local gym near my apartment, and would go there to train during the week. I had finally recovered from injury while I was in China, so I was super excited to get back in the gym!”—Ryan Dondalski (IES Abroad Shanghai | University of Tulsa)

“I've lived in college towns all my life, and I love driving my car. However, feel a slight twinge of guilt because I know how much the environment suffers every time I crank my keys to drive two minutes down the road to a place that would be a 10-minute walk. Living abroad helped me reassess this. When I didn't have a car (or any legal way of driving), I had to resort to my own two feet—and I loved it. Walking everywhere helped me gain a greater appreciation for Amsterdam because it wasn't whizzing by me at 45 miles per hour. I was not only able to lose a little weight that I put on during the stress of junior year (Senior project proposal snacks were my downfall!), but I also started jogging in the mornings because I felt more healthy and free. It's the little things.”—Joseph Bronte (IES Abroad Amsterdam | Stetson University)

Doing the Research

“One of the biggest things that helped me maintain my health while I was abroad was bringing a reusable water bottle! It may not sound like much, but I found it so important to have with me as I was traveling in order to stay hydrated and prevent sickness. Also, make sure to advocate for yourself and any dietary requirements you may have! It's important that you're getting proper nutrition while you're abroad. Don't be afraid to talk to your Center about going to the doctor either.”—Justice Hadley (IES Abroad Paris | University of Wisconsin—Madison)

“Our teachers were amazing. When we first got into the country, they went over all the options we had for everything from gym memberships to food at the university cafeteria, places to run, etc. Asking the locals is always the best option for finding anything you may need, especially the professors, RAs, and guides through IES Abroad. They also taught us how to find pharmacies, and for the students who ended up with pink eye, the flu, or anything else, they helped them find and purchase the medicine they needed. IES Abroad and its team does an incredible job of making this new place feel a little more like home, so take advantage of the help that is offered and don't be afraid to ask questions!”—Kristina Tracy (IES Abroad Siena | Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis)

“Being gluten free, I was very worried about maintaining my health while abroad. However, doing research prior to my departure helped immensely, and asking my program leaders where to buy the best gluten-free foods was a quick way to find something delicious to eat.”—Mariah Bensley (IES Abroad Siena | Hope College)

Want to read more? Check out what our student Ambassadors had to say about practicing self-care while studying abroad, or read posts from our student Correspondents about handling dietary restrictions while studying abroad

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