To anyone and everyone going abroad at any point in their lives, congrats (and can you bring me with you?). You’re about to embark on an amazing journey with endless new things to try and plenty of unexpected adventures.
I promise you the time with go faster than you can imagine, so you’re going to want to make the most of your short time there.
My first semester of freshman year, I not only had to fight the freshman fifteen, but also what I call the “abroad-bod.” I tried to cling on to my high school body, athletic lifestyle and health-conscious attitude.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after I came home that I realized it is not, I repeat not, worth it to worry about how your body looks while abroad. Here’s why:
1. There’s a lot to adapt to.
You’re in a brand new place with plenty of other things to worry about, like the time change, currency, transportation, getting a local cellphone and maybe even a language barrier. Cut yourself some slack in the first couple of weeks while you take your time adjusting to your new home. Consider packing these items if you’re worried about adapting to local cuisine.
2. You’re having more fun.
You’re doing way more exciting things abroad than working out like you typically would. You have opportunities to travel on the weekends, to go to concerts and museums in your free time and to visit classic tourist spots. Consider that it’s probably not worth it to stay in tip top shape, and enjoy the chances you get to soak up so many unique opportunities.
3. Your time abroad will go fast.
You only have a short period of time to immerse yourself in a new culture, so you should use it doing things you can only do while abroad. You can go on a run anywhere, but you can only visit Big Ben while in London. There will be plenty of time to work out when you return to campus.
4. Especially enjoy the food in your new city.
Chances are the new city you’re in has bomb food to try. There will be way more options than you have on campus.
Treat yourself to trying a couple different things when visiting markets and splurge on local cuisine even if it may not be the superfood smoothie or whole grain granola you’re used to. Even if you’re allergic to a major food group, there are ways to adapt. Food is a great way to experience and appreciate the culture of your temporary home.
5. Living situations can change your eating habits.
Living with host families may bring about different expectations of how much you should eat. Some cultures expect that the guest eat more than the family, and thus you may find yourself feeling especially full every night after dinner. Learn the culture that you’re heading into so you know how to act.
6. Your insecurities can take you out of the moment.
Spending too much time worried about looking your best can take away from the experience of being abroad. If you’re constantly worried about how your body looks, you won’t fully enjoy the unique and spontaneous moments you’ll experience.
7. Build healthy choices into your habits.
While you may not have time to hit the weight room or go for five mile runs like you would during a typical semester, you can still find ways to be healthy.
Instead of taking cabs or public transportation, make time in your schedule to walk or bike places. If your study abroad location is by the beach (lucky), go swimming or try a local sport like surfing. Incorporate fitness into your tourist activities.
8. You head back to campus eventually.
At the end of your time abroad, you’ll head back to campus and get back into your routine. At this point you’ll probably realize how much you miss your study abroad. You’ll wish you could go back instead of going to the gym. But on the bright side, getting back into a routine of regular fitness and conscious eating can help you get back into the shape you want.