Uni Life

Staying healthy on exchange – Part 1: Food

 “It’s way too hot to work out!”

“I’m out of food… I’ll just buy takeaway in town”

 “Oh man no way, the gym membership is soooooo expensive”

 “Meh, coffee will wake me up tomorrow”.

These thoughts came to my mind so many times in the early weeks of my exchange.

Coming to Australia for an exchange programme, I was sure I’d be able to stay on track, exercise as regularly as I did back home, eat tons of healthy fruit and veggies and get all the sleep in the world.

Soon enough, I noticed it wasn’t going to be that easy for myriad of different reasons and I’d start hiding behind all kinds of excuses to justify my lagging. Don’t get me wrong, being on exchange is probably one of the most exciting things you’ll do in your life and you should make the most of your time in your host country, have fun and create life-lasting memories.

Here are a few ways your subconscious and body may try to push you off track and my tips to overcome them. This story will be a 3-part series. Each article will tackle an aspect of health to help you look after yourself during your exchange. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3!

Part 1: The spell of unhealthy food

Perhaps you’re living in a dorm. Perhaps it’s your first time living outside of your parents’ house and you’ve never cooked for yourself. Perhaps you live far from a supermarket. So you go for easy ready-made meals to pop into the microwave, reach for your phone and order takeaway or worse, you skip meals because you’re struggling to come up with anything else.

The thing is, the food you eat determines the energy you have to make the most out of your days, so eating food which doesn’t provide heaps of energy for your brain and muscles will put you in a negative mindset and make you feel too tired to move your body.

“The supermarket is too far”

Find a friend with a car, use public transport or go shopping with your empty suitcase so that you don’t have to carry all your food home – easy!

“Healthy food is expensive”

It is if you are not careful what you buy. Whole foods especially in large quantities are the cheapest calories you can find (rice, pasta, lentils, beans, corn, bananas, potatoes, fruit, veggies, nuts, grains, etc.). Look at the price per kilogram and go for the cheapest brand. Once you have your large packets of food, store them well at home. You can cook them in bulk and freeze them which will also save you time (Bonus!). Eating take-away and ready-made meals will amount to a lot of money in the long run if that’s all you eat!

“I can’t cook”

Yes you can! The internet is full of quick, tasty and easy recipes for students (Look at Youtube and Pinterest for inspiration), that can be made with little to no equipment for those of you living in dorms. You can also ask your friends or roommates for advice and most importantly, go with the flow, experiment! How bad can a jacket potato taste after all?

Chickpeas and a bunch of veggies in a pot: You got yourself couscous for the week !


“I don’t have time to cook”

Two word: meal prep. Cook big batches of food on Sundays and store them in containers in your fridge or freezer. All you have to do when you leave in the morning is open the fridge and reach out for a box to take with. It’s not as hard as you think and you’ll be eating food that’s healthier and cheaper than anything you’ll find on campus. Bonus point: you’ll make everyone else jealous in class!

Straight out of the fridge !


“My friends are eating out”

This is probably the hardest one because no one wants to be the anti-social person that refuses a night out. One solution is to bring food from home and tell your friends you’re on a tight budget, or you can tag along and try to order the healthiest thing on the menu; don’t be afraid to ask the waiter for adjustments! Get a pizza but get a veggie one, get a smoothie rather than a milkshake, cut out the mayo in your salad… There are so many ways to make healthy switches, it’s just up to you !

Don’t underestimate the power of a healthy diet on the quality of your life! To take your overseas well-being to a whole other level, exercise is also a key element!

– Tess

Read on to Part 2 to see how Tess maintains her exercise regime whilst on exchange.  

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