A common thought when people imagine Italy is food. Pasta, pizza and, of course, tiramisu occupied my mind on the plane ride to Rome this J-term. I could not wait for my first meal in Italy.

I knew if I were to indulge in anything on my course abroad, it wouldn’t be souvenirs, it would be Italian cuisine, and I would learn to appreciate and enjoy every bit of it.

It can be easy to shy away from new and interesting foods when traveling. This can especially be the case when you are traveling to a more exotic country or spending your J-term in a culture completely different from your own.

In the United States we have a variety of restaurants to eat at that offer foreign foods throughout our streets and cities. Therefore, it might be a shock when the Mexican food we enjoy so much here at home is a little different than the food actually served in Mexico.  

Even in Italy, the pizza is completely different than the pizza in the United States. Everything from the ingredients, to the toppings and even the dough looked and tasted quite different than the pizza in The Commons.

The difference in food was not so much of a burden as a blessing. Taking advantage of all the types of meats Italians serve and the different types of pastas they had was not only fun, but delicious.

I could not afford to be picky because I knew in the back of my mind I may never return to Italy in my lifetime. This could be my only chance to try entrails or the extremely yummy Roman fried artichoke.

A classmate tried fried brain and another enjoyed massive prawns served with the heads — including eyes — still attached. Obviously, the food resulted not only in full stomachs but many great memories of our time in Rome, even when some of the food was not that great, which was rare.

Feeding yourself can be one of the many things you can do to enjoy your trip abroad in a way you did not expect. Trying new things can be hard and even scary sometimes, especially when you are already far from home. 

If you are not adventurous enough to jump into a plate of fried brain, like me, then try a new flavor of gelato, or another type of dessert every time you decide you would like to indulge your sweet tooth. 

Something else I liked to do was to document the various meals and foods I tried. Snapping a picture to go into your scrapbook can be a fun way to capture another aspect of a culture we sometimes forget when we think back on trips.

So next J-term, semester or even vacation when you are traveling to a new place, hang onto your pocket translator, grab that menu and be confident of that unfamiliar dish you are about to consume. Better yet, just close your eyes and point. Be brave in any situation when faced with new and potentially exciting things, make the most of your trip and always feed yourself.

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