Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 2 - 21

It Just Doesn't Taste the Same

Understanding the food of a country is essential to understanding
its culture, and international students face both a cultural and
dietary transition after they arrive on U.S. campuses.
" dining hall is [not] excellent but it got me
breathing, " indicating that not only is the
quality of food poor, but that eating it is merely a necessity to keep her alive. This may indicate that campus dining departments are less
able to offer food from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds or have less knowledge of how
to cater to the preferences of international students. Overall, dissatisfaction with the quality
of food served on campus was observed by
most of our participants and was also salient
in the other two themes of our findings.

Cultural Differences in Food Offerings
In addition to describing the poor quality of
food served in campus dining halls, our participants also noted the cultural differences
they faced while eating on campus. Several
students commented on how the food served
in the dining locations on campus was not
the same as it was at home, even when options from their culture were served. For
example, Sam explained that, though a few
options are similar to what his family makes
at home, " it's not the same . . . the food here
isn't that spicy . . . it also just doesn't taste the
same. " He described the time and care his
mother took in preparing his family's traditional food, noting that the preparation is different than what he has seen on campus. NM
described a similar experience. When asked
if the dining hall ever served food from his
cultural background, he said yes, sometimes,
but there is no comparison. " It's like you can
eat [it] . . . but you cannot even touch " the
quality of the food from his home country.
These students appreciated the institution's
efforts to provide them with familiar food
but also indicated how the quality was not as
high as what they eat at home.
18

The Journal of College and University Student Housing

	
Adapting to new food options can help
connect international students to American culture (Yan & FitzPatrick, 2016), but
because the food was of such poor quality,
the participants' transition to college in the
U.S. was that much more difficult. Johny
noted how he was not able to find food from
home on or off campus and that even the
same foods are cooked differently, adding to
the unfamiliarity of eating in a U.S. context.
" In [my home country] the way of cooking is
just to boil, boil not fry . . . put food in water
and boil . . . here, everything is fried in oil. "
Baby also noted a difference in taste, stating
how food on campus has " a lot of sugar " and
seems to be much sweeter than the same
foods in his home country. All of them described how different the food on campus
was from the food they grew up with in their
communities, indicating the importance of
food in creating connections to home and
cultural identity (Amos & Lordly, 2014;
Corcoran, 2018). One participant, John Doe,
even said that he missed his home country's
food so much that, in order to miss it less,
he went to the dining hall and ate just to
feel full, " so full that [he] would not miss the
food " from back home.
	
Some participants mentioned the wide
variety of options dining halls offered to students at each meal, which to some seemed
like excess. As Nike shared,
There are a lot of options [to eat on
campus]. Compared to our home where
we don't have many options for eating. . . .
I don't know if there are reasons [for all
of the options, but some] I cannot even
approach 'cause I found they are not
fitting to me.



Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 2

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