By: Madeline Geiser
During my sophomore year in high school, my marching band traveled to China for spring break. Throughout the week, we toured cities along the East Coast, including Beijing and Qingdao. As it was my first time out of the country, I wanted to soak up absolutely everything (especially the food). I’ve always been an adventurous eater and wanted to try as many dishes as possible, no matter how weird.
While most of my friends stuck to the big bowl of white rice that came with every meal, I made it my mission to try a bite of every single plate on the table. In China, meals are served family-style with large portions of food in the center of the table, usually on a rotating circular stand. We would spin the platform around and I would take at least one scoop or slice of every single thing on the table. I ate the strangest of foods, including chicken feet, eggs with soy sauce, and even a fish eyeball (which was surprisingly tasty, but crunchy too). I had a blast trying so many new foods and was very proud of myself for being so adventurous when dining.
However, I quickly realized my body was not accustomed to such a different diet. Chinese cuisine is made with lots of salt and lots of vinegar, which upset the natural balance of my stomach more than once on the trip. I am also allergic to some shellfish, which caused problems when we ate at seafood restaurants because I did not always know exactly what I was eating. Additionally, health codes and standards are quite different abroad, so I was exposed to germs and bacteria I had not encountered in the U.S. We were not allowed to drink tap water or have ice in our drinks, everything we drank during meals was prepackaged soft drinks (mostly Coke and Sprite). Luckily, I did not get sick on that trip. However, looking back I realize that in every abroad trip, one must be a balance between eating adventurously and staying healthy.
My advice: take advantage of the opportunities to try new foods you would never eat in your daily life. When would you ever get to eat a fish’s eyeball at home? Remember, your stomach is not accustomed to the same diet of the locals and time needs to be taken for adjustment. Bring Pepto or Tums with you everywhere, and try your hardest to stick to bottled beverages. My favorite part of the trip had been abroad meals because you get to experience an unfamiliar culture up close, the way the locals experience it every day! Keep your tummy happy , but also, make the most of your meals!