If you want to study abroad, there are probably several factors that you’re considering as you decide on your destination and which university you want to attend. For example:
- Campus housing and dining
- Financials (tuition, room and board, available scholarships)
- Programming (available degrees, advanced degrees, special educational opportunities)
- Experiences (campus life, clubs and sports, activities)
- Technology (online instruction, computer support and security, access to computer labs and equipment)
But for now, let’s focus on dining.
The quality of a school's dining program has become more important to students in recent years. Changes in dietary and nutritional requirements combined with the needs and expectations of multicultural student bodies have made the culinary options on campus a major factor in selecting a school. More than ever before, there’s an expectation for menus to cater to a variety of dietary needs—from vegan to gluten-free and more. Also important: the environmental impact of culinary choices. Students are looking for schools to crack down on food waste, offer sustainable containers and utensils, and consider energy use in their kitchens and menu choices.
Let’s look at some of the factors that go into making a good college dining program:
Campus dietary needs
Today’s students have a wide range of dietary needs—whether it be allergen-free foods, vegan or vegetarian diets, gluten-free options, or meeting nutritional, health, cultural or religious requirements.
While concerned about special dietary needs, students want access to these choices without drawing attention to themselves. The most successful dining programs meet these needs without singling students out as needing special treatment.
Flexibility and variety are key
The average student consumes roughly 21 meals per week. When menus are the same from week to week, it’s easy for campus menus and regimens to become boring. So, look for schools that offer flexibility in their meal plans—think staggered mealtimes; after-hours dining; special events; and diverse, revolving menus. Also important: schools that respond quickly and readily to student requests.
Getting students on board
Many schools are realizing the benefits of engaging students at all levels in their dining programs, and that doing so aids in their recruitment and retention efforts. Having students involved in key decisions about the quality and makeup of the dining program leads to greater student satisfaction—and makes them less likely to seek off-campus alternatives. So you’ll want to look for schools that are open to student feedback and involvement in the dining program.
Curious about which U.S. colleges and universities have the best dining programs? Check out this top-10 list, courtesy of Niche.com:
The Top 10 Best Colleges For Food
- University of California – Los Angeles
- Virginia Tech
- University of Massachusetts – Amherst
- St. Norbert College (Wisconsin)
- California Baptist University
- St. John Fisher University (New York)
- Bates College (Maine)
- James Madison University (Virginia)
- University of San Diego(California)
- Muhlenberg College (Pennsylvania)
Hungry for more? Continue preparing for your study abroad program by taking the TOEFL iBT® test, the gold standard of English proficiency exams.
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