Before leaving for London, one of the main concerns I had was how to maintain a healthy lifestyle while studying abroad. When thinking about the city of London as a whole, one thinks of a hectic and bustling atmosphere. I wondered how I would maintain a healthy lifestyle while simultaneously adjusting to an entirely new place that I was not familiar with. At home in New Jersey, my main routine consisted of grocery shopping about once every two weeks and going to the gym regularly. For someone who relies on routine, moving to an entirely new place was both exciting and a little bit daunting.
My first week in England I experienced a minor taste of culture shock when I went grocery shopping and discovered none of my usual food brands were available. Things were also rearranged a bit differently than I was used. Although this was a little overwhelming at first, I wanted to use the new culture and fresh atmosphere to my advantage.
My friends and I found an organic food market not too far from us that had so many new options I’ve never even tried! (Falafel and curry-based meals have now become my new go-to). Although London is not known for having exquisite and unique cuisine like in other countries, such as Italy and Spain, it definitely is a nice change of pace from my usual American food. Most restaurants in London have plenty of vegetarian and vegan options that make it accessible for someone such as myself to live a vegetarian lifestyle. As for my fully vegan friends, they always have options whenever we go out to eat! This is definitely a new change of pace than trying to find any vegan options back home that aren’t just a plain salad.
Just as studying abroad has allowed me to try new foods and expand my palate, I have also had the pleasure of experimenting with new ways of exercise and lifestyle changes. Since my college, University of Roehampton, is so close to Richmond Park, I was expecting most of my exercise and physical activity to come from walking and jogging in the park. Although I do enjoy running as a way to clear my mind while soaking in the fresh air, repetitiveness in any form can become a bit mundane. A good friend of mine mentioned to me that she joined a yoga studio only about a twenty minute bus ride from our university. After stating how much she enjoyed going, I decided I would give it a try.
As someone who has never tried yoga before, the idea of starting up such a hard practice in a completely different country had me a little hesitant at first. My first class I had no idea what any of the poses were called and was struggling to at least look like I knew what I was doing by mimicking the yoga instructor, all while trying not to lose balance and fall over during many poses. Not to mention sweat; lots and lots of sweat.
Although this experience was jarring at first, I really enjoyed the change of pace and respected how well some of the people in the room knew the craft. I decided to buy a membership and have been going almost everyday since then. Now, I consider yoga to be an essential part of my daily exercise routine that allows me to clear my thoughts and ground myself from the business a day brings. I will definitely be keeping up with this routine once I am back home in New Jersey!
Exercise and eating may not be the first two things that cross somebody’s mind when thinking about their upcoming study abroad experience. I mean, come on, most of us are fantasizing about exploring the area and developing meaningful connections with people from all over. Although there are many other magical experiences to studying abroad that may be a bit more captivating, taking care of your health should land somewhere on your radar. Not only physical health, but engaging in activity that promotes balanced mental health should also be a priority.
Whether this means joining a yoga studio or trying something completely new, go for it! Getting past the hurdle of adapting to a new food culture and joining a completely different world of exercise than I was used to has been an essential part of my growing experience abroad. Although these two aspects may seem meager to some people, I can confidently say that change is good and essential. Making sure that your health and mindfulness are in check will allow you to soak up all of the other fun (and more glamorous) parts of studying abroad to the fullest extent!
Rebecca Nocentino is a student at Rowan University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying with ISA in London, England.