How to Not Gain Weight Abroad

I’m sure this is one of the first thoughts in everyone’s mind, as I know it was one of mine before I studied abroad in Florence, Italy. I thought to myself, I am going to be eating so much pasta in Italy I’ll be lucky if I don’t turn into a giant Gnocchi myself. The truth is there are ways around it; you just have to be conscious about them. Here are my 5 best tips to avoid gaining weight while studying abroad:

 1: Something many people don’t realize before studying abroad is how much walking you will be doing throughout whatever city you are in. Florence is a small city but I walked everywhere I went. I mean you walk A LOT, I can’t stress this enough. I remember when I visited Barcelona for a weekend we had to walk three miles (with our suitcases) through the city to get to our hostel. Yeah, we probably could have gotten a taxi, but three miles didn’t sound that bad at the time. So, on the plus side, you will naturally be burning calories whether you want to or not, and the down side is that you will definitely be getting some blisters.

 2: Almost every city has some sort of gym located either near you or within walking distance of you. Whether it’s some cardio, yoga, or weight lifting, anything helps. Download some Netflix shows, step onto that elliptical and just go until the episode is over…easy right?

 3: Lots of schools abroad actually have intramural sports or classes you can take; for example,morning yoga, pilates, soccer, or Frisbee,which keep you active AND allows you to meet new people at the same time.

 4: I took advantage of the Arno River in Florence during my semester abroad, as there was nothing like going for a morning or afternoon run to get my blood pumping. Plus, I never got sick of the view. All cities abroad have streets, so just slip on some sneakers and get to jogging.

 5: Let’s face it, the food in Europe is addicting. You are going to want to eat everything on the menu when you go out.However, a good tip for someone who is trying to skip the carbonara temptation is to cook at home. Maybe even invite some friends over grab a couple bottles of wine and have a family dinner together. This way you can control what you eat on top of saving some money.

I never truly imagined what it would be like to study abroad and live in a different country. No matter how many articles you read or how many people describe it to you, living in Europe is much different than living in the United States. Arriving in Florence, Italy after flying for 8+ hours was a fantastic feeling; nothing compared to looking out that tiny plane window and seeing a sea of red tile roofs. It was like looking at a live Google image! I couldn’t believe I was about to land in the city where I was going to study abroad for the next three and a half months. I was picked up with a few other girls in my program by our Academic Studies Abroad (ASA) site director who brought us from the airport to our apartment. That was when the reality kicked in. Stepping outside the van onto cobblestone streets was magical, it was like nothing I had ever seen before. Everywhere I looked was nothing but uneven, oddly shaped, discolored stones, and I couldn’t help but be captivated by it. I had finally made it.

 Next step was trying to navigate the small yet extremely daunting city of Florence. I must admit that I got lost about a dozen times before I could really grasp my surroundings. The Duomo ended up being my North Star, guiding me through narrow and confusing streets. The key is to know your way back to your apartment from the Duomo and then you are set. After a couple of weeks, you will even be bold enough to start exploring different streets knowing that somewhere along the line you will find your way without a problem.

 Now let’s discuss money. The biggest tip I have to give after living in Florence is CASH IS EVERYTHING! The only time I used my credit card was at Conad (the local grocery store) or at an ATM to take out cash. If you decide to go to the local sandwich shop to purchase lunch, there is a very high chance that they won’t even accept credit cards, so I always carried at least €40 on me. Don’t learn this lesson the hard way and get stuck somewhere with no way of paying, it’s very awkward.

 Hands down the best thing you will understand after coming home from studying abroad is that you will never again eat like you did in Florence. Boy do those Italians know how to eat, but it isn’t the “Italian food” America has created over the years, it’s even better. Carbonara, gnocchi, cheese and meat platters, you name it they do it right. The portions are much smaller than in the United States, so keep that in mind when ordering at a restaurant. Oh, and water is never free. As for the wine…always get it. You will not be disappointed.

 As the season changes from summer to fall to winter, Florence (and all of Italy) begins to get cooler. By now you will have figured out your classes, your favorite restaurants, local bars, and probably have a group of really close friends to enjoy your time with. You might even travel to different countries on the weekends. Everything will be working out exactly how you imagined it would.  And soon your last fifteen days of studying abroad will come and you will be shocked at how unbelievably fast it all went by. An entire semester come and gone. You look back at yourself three months ago and can’t believe the person you were then versus now. How independent you’ve become and how cultured you feel is an extremely rewarding feeling. There is nothing like studying abroad and experiencing what you never thought was possible.


Its happens to almost everyone abroad, coming back a couple pounds heavier just happens, you can’t help all the delicious food and treats. Every pound will be worth the experience, I promise. Study abroad Florence .

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