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The Abroad 15

by Riley Sugarman

Photography courtesy of Marissa Wu

Many have heard of the Freshman Fifteen: the weight many freshmen in college put on during in their first semester living away from home. Copious amounts of dining hall pizza and lack of exercise can bring on those pounds without surprise.

Studying abroad is a time to broaden horizons through exploration, and trying a country’s cuisine is a great way to get a taste of its culture and live like a native. With so many foods to try, a similar phenomenon takes place: The Abroad 15.

Gaining weight is completely normal when going through a lifestyle change as big as moving to another country, but below are a few tips for foodies who want to stay healthy while abroad.

Try to maintain a similar routine

Making an effort to continue a similar lifestyle is difficult in another country with different customs, but can help prevent changes in weight.

According to the Scottsdale Weight Loss Center, “The foods you eat, the way you spend your free time, how often you engage in activity throughout the day—each of these are common influences on your lifestyle…and can affect the way you gain and lose weight.”

Eileen Nolan (SAR ’19) never heard of the Abroad 15, but was worried about gaining weight while in Dublin, Ireland.

“I feel like I usually eat a pretty healthy diet, and didn’t have to much trouble maintaining that habit while I was abroad,” said Nolan. “I wanted to make sure I kept up some semblance to my routine while I was abroad.”

Maintaining a similar sleep schedule and diet can make a huge difference during the semester.

There will be late nights, early planes to catch and cities to explore, but setting at least a semi-regular bedtime can boost energy and sustain a healthy lifestyle.

Maintaining a similar diet can be difficult in a country with different foods, but Sara Schriefer (CAS ’18) found it easier than she originally thought.

“I generally eat very basic, bland foods because I don’t like to cook or spend a lot of time or money on what I eat, so I was able to stick to the same basic foods I normally eat,” said Schriefer.


Exercise is an easy way to stay healthy when significant lifestyle changes are impossible to avoid. Not to mention, the CDC said exercising in any form, such as walking, running or lifting weights, is one of the most important things one can do to stay healthy.

Nolan made sure to exercise at the gym or by taking a run almost every day.

“I also ended up doing a lot of walking to get around and explore the city, which I guess helped me stay relatively fit,” said Nolan.

Walking instead of taking public transportation when travelling is healthier and cheaper. It is also easier than navigating a bus system in a foreign language, and there are so many beautiful sights that will be missed on an underground train or crowded bus.

Some BU abroad programs offer gym memberships through the university or advertised in the area, but a daily jog around town will definitely suffice.

Meal preparation is key

It can be tough to say no to the delicious foods different countries have to offer when abroad.

Haley Pereira (CAS ’18) said she felt tempted by the tasty dishes around Europe and could see how many would have trouble avoiding them.

“I think while you’re abroad it is very tempting to eat out more than you would at BU and while travelling on the weekends, which can definitely cause people to gain weight,” Pereira said.

It can be much easier to maintain a healthy diet with access to a kitchen.

“It was probably because I had to pay for my food and cut out most things aside from the three standard meals—so that meant no late-night ice cream,” said Maddie Arch (COM ’19).

Many BU abroad programs house students in dorms with access to a kitchen. This makes meal prepping possible, which can prevent impulse dinners at the fried food restaurant down the street.

Studying abroad is a time to experience and explore, so don’t avoid tasty and famous foods from around the world in fear of gaining a little weight. Meal preparation, exercise and a routine are important for living a healthy lifestyle anyway.

Use these tips—or not—and enjoy studying abroad. Ciao!

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