Imagine yourself sipping an espresso in a café in Milan while you contemplate your gelato flavor for the day. While that might be your quintessential study abroad moment, eating abroad is about more than just embracing the classics of the country you're visiting. 

While I think everyone should try the more obvious choices, like spaghetti alla carbonara in Italy and patatas bravas in Spain, eating abroad is also about immersing yourself in the culture of each city you visit and finding the food the locals love. 

Because choosing a place to study abroad can be daunting, below is an insider's guide to help you find a country based on the type of food experience you're looking for: 

1. If you want the best street food in the world: Shanghai, China

vegetable, potato
 Photo by Yuqing Chen

Shanghai is known by the locals for its street food, usually consisting of rows of little carts on small streets (usually operating until the police say otherwise). There’s everything from stir-fry noodles to egg potato wraps, and if you’re in the mood to for a special treat, there’s also youtiao, known more commonly as a Chinese donut.

The diversity of the street food means that there’s something for everyone. If upscale food is more your thing, Shanghai has that, too (read: truffle-filled or foie gras dumplings). There’s also beautifully crafted dim sum, which will more than satisfy your abroad Instagram needs. 

2. If you want a worldly cuisine with French finesse: Paris, France

chicken, bacon
Brooke Robinson

While Paris might be recognized time and again for its croissants, it also boasts an incredible selection of authentically prepared foods from around the word. 

The bakeries have tons of eclectic pastries, and if you’re out on a morning walk, you'll get an amazing whiff of freshly baked breads. Paris also has no shortage of over-the-top foods like an 8-cheese pizza from a restaurant called Pink Flamingo (to name just one). 

Visit the trendy Oberkampf neighborhood and hit up one of the cute little cafés like the aptly named Café Oberkampf or wander through the up-and-coming Marais du Nord. And of course, you can always get your food to-go along with a bottle of wine and head to the Eiffel Tower for a picnic to enjoy one of abroad's most hyped-up moments. 

3. If you love ham or cheese (or ham and cheese): Madrid, Spain

A photo posted by Laura López (@lauraponts) on

While red wine sangria and paella are absolute must-haves, Madrid's cuisine is packed with variety, with specialties ranging from suckling pigs to huevos rotos (literally "broken eggs" atop french fries topped with crispy bacon), which are literally to die for. 

But I'm going to use this space to gush solely about croquetas, which I think are the essence of cooking and a mainstay at any tapas restaurant. I even broke my lifelong vegetarianism (sorry, mom!) to sneak ham croquettes from my fridge multiple times after a night out at Kapital, the iconic 7-story club you've seen on many an abroad friend's Snapchat.

These fried breadcrumb-coated bites made with a creamy filling sent straight from heaven pair wonderfully with a mozzarella-tomato salad and a glass of Cava. While you'll definitely want to visit one of the many traditional tapas restaurants around Gran Via and Sol, make sure to also hit up El Tigre when you're with a large group because you'll get a free plate of food (usually a random assortment of tapas, but you can ask for croquettes!) for every drink you buy.

4. If emphasis on locally-produced ingredients are your thing: Florence, Italy

Kay Lee

Every foodie should find themselves eating in Italy at least once in his or her life. Almost all of the food served up in Italian restaurants is locally-grown, so you can be absolutely sure of the quality of each delicious ingredient. And because of the varying climate and culinary traditions throughout the country, each region boasts a unique specialty. 

Since Florence is centrally-located, you can easily travel to the north to find creamy squid ink pastas or venture down south to learn the true definition of pizza. Cheeses vary by region, as well as the many different types of produce, meats, oils and drinks.

#SpoonTip: Sorrento is the only place you should be buying limoncello. 

Worried about your budget? Even in Venice, in a small, nondescript bar, you can find a sandwich with a variety of spiced prosciutto, topped with thin slices of pecorino, all wedged between two pieces of fried eggplant for just around €2.     

5. If you want the best cuisine for your buck in a less traditional study abroad city: New Delhi, India

While some may urge students to be extra cautious should they choose to study in India, the endlessly beautiful culture and amazing food is most definitely worth any additional effort to go abroad in my home country. 

To any fellow vegetarians out there: thanks to the huge South Indian influence in North India, the north has become a mecca of veggie-friendly food. Try restaurants such as Suruchi or Sagar Ratna which have thalis consisting of a little bit of everything such as dal (lentils), flat bread (roti) and raita (yogurt dip). 

Going abroad to New Delhi will allow you to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to eat spicy Indian food along the Ganges River in the shadow of the Taj Mahal. 

6. If the idea of a drink named "Earthquake" has you both excited and wondering if you can handle being abroad: Santiago, Chile

I may or may not be biased, since Chile is where I am studying abroad next semester, but I have been dying to try a terremoto (earthquake) ever since I was walking down a street in Santiago with goosebumps, shivering, and was offered one by a bartender in an attempt to warm me up. 

But Santiago isn’t just known for its drinks – it also has Chilean specialties like sopapillas, a type of fried pastry, completos, which are basically hotdogs 2.0 topped with avocado, and lomitos and currascos, which are sandwiches made from beef or pork topped with avocado and mayo. If you find yourself in Santiago, make sure to stop by Fuente Mardoqueo or Fuente Alemana for the best of these local Chilean eats.

Special thanks to the following contributors for giving me inside details on these study abroad destinations: Yuqing Chen, Brooke Robinson, Aaron Dozzi and Victoria Menchaca