Students say goodbye to meat-free diet in order to study abroad

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Photo Credit: Jamie Powers | Daily Texan Staff

Plane tickets, suitcases and housing are a few things a student has to get in order before studying abroad. However, to prepare for her trip, Alicia Willoughby has been making changes to her diet.

Willoughby, an international relations and global studies sophomore, decided one year ago to cut meat out of her diet for health-related reasons and because of the meat industry’s negative environmental impact. 

Willoughby will fly to Argentina this summer, where she will live with a local family as part of her homestay option for housing. After she decided on the homestay option, she said she quickly learned she would not be able to keep up her vegetarian lifestyle.

“My affiliate program told me, ‘Vegetarianism isn’t understood in Latin American countries still, so you need to plan to bring vitamins for yourself or choose to eat meat again,’” Willoughby said. “I was not extremely surprised by this information, but I am a little sad that I won’t be able to keep up my lifestyle.”

 

Because of the change to her lifetyle she will experience in a few months, Willoughby said she is slowly implementing meat back into her diet.

“I will eat meals that have small portions of meat in them rather than eating meat as the main part of my meals,” Willoughby said. “I only do it once or twice a week for now, and I’ll slowly increase the frequency over the next few weeks. Transitioning hasn’t been hard, but it’s not something I enjoy.”

Fiona Mazurenko, marketing manager for the International Office, said hundreds of students with unique dietary preferences go abroad every year, and the office works with the host families to accommodate students’ needs.

“If students self-disclose their dietary preferences, program coordinators encourage them to research their destination thoroughly and make the decision that is right for them based on the norms in that country,”
Mazurenko said.

Sustainability studies sophomore George Roth will travel to Botswana this summer to study climate change, ecosystems and human dynamics. Roth is vegan and said he was told veganism was not the healthiest option while studying abroad, so he will consume a vegetarian diet while on the trip.

“However, as I’ve developed lactose intolerance, milk, cheese and other dairy products will wreck my stomach while I’m on the trip, so I’m going to avoid that as much as possible,” Roth said. “I’ll try to eat as much plant-based food as possible.”

Roth said veganism is an aspect in his life that is extremely important to him, so he has no plans to eat meat during his time abroad. 

“I shouldn’t have to sacrifice a significant part of me to participate in studying abroad,” Roth said. “I strongly believe in not eating any sentient being who shares the ability to feel pain and suffering.” 

While Willoughby said she does not enjoy transitioning to eating meat again, it will be worth having the study abroad experience she’s always wanted.

“Yes, I plan to resume my vegetarian diet when I return,” Willoughby said. “I’m looking forward to being abroad for the first time on my own, taking classes at the oldest university in Argentina and being fully immersed into Argentinian culture.”