Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 2 - 23

It Just Doesn't Taste the Same

Most of the participants described negative feelings about the quality
of food on campus, recognizing that food is a powerful connection
to feelings of home and belonging for college students.
to move to a different location, they were
able to cook food familiar to them, putting
high value on their own cultural traditions
and connecting their experiences with food
to their home countries and cultural norms,
as found in previous studies of international
students' experiences transitioning to a new
culture (Amos & Lordly, 2014; Corcoran,
2018; Ying & Han, 2006).
	
Some participants decided to move off
campus entirely. Maria was most excited
about cooking by herself. " I'm not going to
have the meal plan anymore. " She was moving to an off-campus residence because she
did not like the campus food and was tired of
always eating the same things. Natalia also
had negative feelings about being forced to
have a meal plan when living on campus,
explaining that she moved off campus because the cost of the meal plan was too high
when considering how little food she actually consumed. Both of these participants cited
problems with food and their meal plans as
reason enough to move off campus.
	
NM had similar experiences, stating that
his primary reason for deciding to move off
campus was because of the poor quality of
food available to him, and living off campus
allowed him to easily afford and make food
that he wanted to eat. " I had a serious problem with the food. I don't like the food at [the
dining halls], " he stated, after only one semester. His strong feelings, developed so early on
in his time living on campus, indicated how
important food choices and eating are to international students and how they can impact
decision making, as found by Hartwell et al.
(2011). Our participants' descriptions of how
impactful food and on-campus dining was to
their decision about where to live shows that
20

The Journal of College and University Student Housing

much improvement can be made to serve international students who live on campus.

IMPLICATIONS
This study sheds light on several implications
for practice and research. First, as shared by
our participants, food and on-campus dining
are extremely important to first-year international students' overall campus experiences.
Institutional efforts to provide foods familiar
to international students were noticed and
appreciated, but the quality of these foods left
some students displeased. Many of our participants stated that eating foods they are familiar with while on campus helped with homesickness and aided in feelings of comfort. For
these reasons, we recommend that higher education institutions provide opportunities for
international students to cook their own food
by housing them in halls with kitchens available for student use. In addition, practitioners
in dining services should continue to strive
for quality offerings with the demographics
of their international student population in
mind, particularly when these students are in
their first year and adjusting to a new diet.
	
Participants noted that while their experiences with food varied, they felt more
at home on campus if they could eat food
to which they were accustomed because it
connected them to their home culture. Practitioners in food and dining services can also
consider ways to be more accommodating
to international students' food requests.
Participants' perceptions of food and dining revealed that food preparation matters;
therefore, practitioners should consider involving international students in creating
menus and practicing appropriate cooking
techniques to ensure that they are getting



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