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Staying Healthy While Studying Abroad

October 17, 2019
by CEA CAPA Content Creator

We have all been here for about a month now to study abroad in Barcelona. We've spent these past few weeks settling into our new homes, eating at new restaurants to immerse ourselves in the Spanish cuisine, and participating in a lot of fun and exciting things all while creating new friendships along the way. We may be so caught up in the excitement of it all that we are losing focus on our health -- physically, mentally, and socially.

Some may think that we are excelling at staying physically healthy because we walk everywhere. A few of us may be used to walking to get to places, but a lot of us come from universities and areas where it is very common to drive everywhere. Our Fitbits and Apple Watches may already be buzzing and rewarding us with our 10,000 steps by noon, but there is so much more to be doing to keep our physical health at its best.

Now, some may be thinking, “It's like I'm on vacation,” or “I hate working out,” and I am saying these exact same things to myself. We have to remember we are living a different lifestyle than we normally live. I bet not all of us are normally going on trips every weekend, eating out for a lot of our meals, or experiencing Barcelona’s nightlife a few times a week. We are overworking our bodies, so we need to do more to benefit them.

In Barcelona, I stay fit by going to LoveCycle classes at least once a week. LoveCycle is very similar to Soul Cycle in the States. LoveCycle is a 45-minute class on a stationary bike with 15-20 others in the class with you. There is an instructor in the class who is also on a bike, and we basically mimic him or her while they explain what to do. We pedal at our own pace, but the instructor will sometimes ask us to raise or lower the resistance for a better leg workout while simultaneously doing an arm workout -- sometimes with light weights or even with our own body weight against the handle bars. Now, I know this sounds confusing, but it's so fun and you get the hang of it within one or two classes. My favorite part about it is the atmosphere. It is in a relatively dark room, and there is always fun music playing.

LoveCycle may seem like it is not for you or too “girly” for the guys (even though many boys are in the classes), but there are so many alternative exercises. You can go for a jog in your neighborhood, go to a gym that is close to your apartment or CEA, find a workout class that suits your taste, or even look up a YouTube video of an abs circuit. Whatever it is, find something that you enjoy. You will thank yourself later.

One thing that I think all of us are very excited about while being here is… FOOD! Spain, and all of Europe, is known for having amazing food. Whether it be paella, patatas bravas, or croquetas. They are all amazing and I cannot get enough.

While all of these are great, they have one thing in common: they are unhealthy, carb-based and in some cases, greasy. All is good in moderation, but not daily. My suggestion is to cook as much as you can on the weekdays and splurge on the weekends. I know it can sometimes be a hassle to cook for yourself, but it does not have to be a four-course meal. Stick to the basics: protein, carb and a vegetable. My favorite meal to cook is a chicken breast (on the stovetop), pasta with olive oil and garlic, and either broccoli or a salad. You can modify this by switching vegetables, trying a new sauce or salad dressing, or switching pasta for rice or bread.

harleigh1If you are not a chef and don’t want to worry about dishes, restaurants can be healthy, or at least semi healthy if you are smart about it. My favorite place to eat here is called Honest Greens (right). Here you can decide between a plate (choice of protein, side salad, sides of your choice, and a slice of bread) or salad (choice of protein and sides). Everything here is very fresh and healthy. They have at least 10 options for sides and half of them are vegetables (which we need and is not common in most Spanish restaurants). I usually get a plate with the Cajun chicken, creamed corn quinoa, and green beans with a spinach side salad. Another place I love is called Vegan Bowls Barcelona (pictured above). They specialize in acai bowls and different yogurt bowls, but they also have different pastries, mac and cheese and toast.

I am not saying it is bad to eat out or try new things. Do it! But be smart about it and opt for small changes. Instead of something fried, go for something grilled. Instead of rice or pasta all the time, throw in some vegetables or eat fruit for breakfast and have that croissant only one day a week. Small lifestyle changes can make a world of a difference. 

The last step to being completely healthy while abroad is tending to your mental health. Moving to a new place, especially a new country, and speaking a different language is difficult and can be draining. Different food, different schools, different atmosphere, different friends -- they are all hard to adapt to. Personally, I think that the most important thing to do is find your new support group, a.k.a., your friends. We all want to have friends to go on adventures with, but we need those people we can go to about anything. Now that we have been here for a while and have gotten to know many different people, most of us have our set friend groups and are having such a great time getting to know them. I encourage you to go outside of your friend group every once in a while. Meet new people, go to lunch with the person you sit next to in class, or go sightseeing with someone you want to know better.

To go along with the social aspect, do something for yourself every once in awhile, too. If you are feeling stressed, go on a walk, listen to music in the Ciutadella Park, or grab a bite to eat in a nearby cafe alone. Interacting with people is great, but sometimes you need a breather and it is totally acceptable to do so.

This new and exciting life is such a great experience for us, but we need to remember to take care of ourselves so we can continue to create these memories we will have with us forever. 

Harleigh Auza is a CEA Content Contributor studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, during the Fall 2019 semester. She is currently a student at the University of Arizona.

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