A lot of things change when you move away from home: the way you dress, the way you talk, the school you go to. These things change even more when you’re moving halfway across the world. In my case, moving from Manila to Davis entailed actually owning a pair of jeans, consciously making an effort to speak straight English, and realizing that the proper way to eat is with knives and forks instead of forks and spoons…

Starting school, I knew that my life wasn’t going to be the same. While I knew I didn’t have to worry about a shortage of food wherever where I went, I didn’t anticipate having to change the way that I ate in the western hemisphere. I suppose some of these things just took me by surprise:

1. Rice (or lack thereof)


Photo courtesy of @hatch22ph on Instagram

My first quarter at UCD, I quickly realized that I wasn’t having enough of something, but I couldn’t place my finger on what. While the dining halls can be a drag sometimes, it wasn’t solely the flavors at fault. And then it hit me: no more rice.

Back in Manila, we had rice with every meal, every day. I mean, yes, scrambled eggs and bacon are good, but Tapsilog is the ultimate hangover food. It’s a meal composed of tapa (soy sauce and garlic marinated beef), sinangag (rice), and itlog (eggs). Filipino food is still available, which I wasn’t expecting at all, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s something I miss waking up to.

2. Produce


Photo by Becky Hughes

Strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries EVERYWHERE! Now that it’s spring, I end up at the farmer’s market every week to drown myself in all the fruit. Yes, we have pineapples, coconuts, and nothing compares to the Cebu mangoes back home. But there’s nothing more I enjoy than biting into a juicy peach.

The Philippines has two seasons: the “we’re-going-to-be-burnt-alive” season, and the “we-might-drown-under-fifty-feet-of-water-on-the-highway” season. Tropical weather means the fruits really stay the same all year round. It’s lovely coming to California and having different fruits and vegetables every season. Now, I can go to the grocery store to buy strawberries instead of driving five hours to the only place in the Philippines where it’s cold enough for them to grow.

3. Proteins


Photo courtesy of @idreamOfsushi on Instagram

Sushi is one of my favorite foods, and I didn’t realize how much harder it would be to get. Living in the tropics makes it so easy to get high quality, fresh, fish that doesn’t burn a hole in your wallet. I had no idea that tilapia fish was sold boneless and skinless, I miss the Sunday lunches where my helpers at home would come from the wet market, and whip up the best seafood dishes with the catch of the day.

Then again, it is so much easier (and so much cheaper) to get good meat. I have to say that I do appreciate having access to organic chicken and grade A steak at Costco for not a whole lot of money. Barbecuing just got a whole lot easier, and I would easily devour an In-n-Out grass-fed burger in seconds if you placed one in front of me.

4. Portions


Photo by Hana Brannigan

It is my firm belief that the reason that the freshman fifteen exists is due to the insane portion sizes. The dining hall is so misleading because it makes everyone feel they need to eat as much as possible to get their money’s worth.

It also proves true that the U.S. has much bigger portions and ridiculous, artery bursting creations. Fun fact: a small Pinkberry serving in the U.S. is the size of a medium serving in the Philippines and the kid’s size over here is their small. For the sake of your health and your sanity, I would suggest that you pace yourself. I mean, if a burrito is the size of your head, I think that’s a pretty good warning sign.

 5. Responsibility


Photo courtesy of hennigwestoo.se

One of the greatest things about college is that the only person you are responsible for is yourself. If you’re like me and battle an eating disorder, specifically hypergymnasia, ever since you were 12, then it’s not necessarily the most freeing thing in the world food-wise. At home, everything was prepared for me. Breakfast was on the table at 6 a.m. before I even woke up. Now, nothing is. This is the first time in my life where I personally have to worry about where I’m going to get my next meal. I do my own groceries, I have a meal plan, and I try to buy snacks to keep me going throughout the day.

I’m always going to hear my mom nagging, “eat gulay (vegetables),” in the back of my head, and I’m also going to want to give into the little demon wrestling with me to order pizza at midnight even if that’s not the healthiest choice I could make. On the flip side, I could place schoolwork over dinner, and trade in a meal for an hour more of chemistry.

I suppose the biggest change that I’ve gone through at college, is learning to completely take care of myself. The college eating experience can be absolutely wonderful and not terrifying at all, so long as we allow it to be.