Don’t let your fitness fall by the wayside when you’re studying abroad.
Whether you decide to study in Spain, Italy, China, Australia, or Peru, its obvious that a semester abroad is the experience of a lifetime. Where else can you completely immerse yourself in another culture in another part of the world? Studying abroad has been one of the most fun and rewarding parts of my college career so far, and I’m only a month in to the experience! One of my biggest concerns heading to Barcelona was how I was going to stay fit while studying abroad. At my home university in Boston (shout out to Northeastern), I’m a regular at the gym and follow a pretty healthy diet, but since I decided to live with a host mom I,
A) have very little control over what I eat
B) didn’t think I had easy access to a gym when I got here
However, I’ve found that it’s actually super easy to stay healthy here in Spain! I walk everywhere I get the chance – to class, from class, to different events around the city, shopping, sightseeing… you get the idea. That alone has helped me feel not as sluggish. Plus, living with a host mom means that she knows all about the neighborhood. It turns out there’s a gym about 3 blocks down the road from my apartment! It’s small but cheap, and going regularly has really helped me feel both fit and less homesick. Yes, I said less homesick. There’s a good chance you may get homesick at some point during your stay abroad and that’s okay! For me, there’s no better way to deal with this than hitting the gym and getting a great workout in. Lastly, the food here isn’t as processed as it is in the states. It’s been really easy to eat mostly fresh fruits, veggies, and protein.
Now obviously you don’t want to feel like you’re missing out on some of the amazing foods that your host country has (paella anyone?), and I’m not saying you should ONLY eat health food while abroad. Balance is key! So yes, have that salad for lunch, but also have gelato while you’re in Italy or chocolate when you’re in Belgium.If you don’t make it to the gym one day, try to go the next.
My favorite exercise rule is to never go more than 2 days without working out, as long as you’re not injured or sick. And remember that working out doesn’t have to be done in a gym! If you enjoy running, run around your neighborhood. It’s a great way to explore the city and get to know the area. Lots of major cities and universities have green space that would be perfect for bodyweight workouts. Yoga and Pilates videos are all over Youtube, and as long as you have some sort of surface to do them on, you’re all set!
I think one of the most challenging experiences health-wise while abroad can be alcohol. In most countries besides the US, the legal drinking age is around 18. Everyone has heard about the dangers of binge drinking, etc. so I’m not going to talk about that. However, if you choose to drink, try to avoid sugary mixers like juice and soda, and drink water in between every alcoholic drink you have.
Your time abroad should be a time of adventure and self-discovery. Making healthy choices along the way will not only make you feel better, but you may find a new routine or way of doing things that improves your overall health!