Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Loyal Tongue, Liberal Mind: International Students' Experiences on Dietary Acculturation in England

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Loyal Tongue, Liberal Mind: International Students' Experiences on Dietary Acculturation in England

Article excerpt

The number of international students engaged in higher education has been increasing during the last decade; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization reported a 12% rise of international students number annually (Coughlan, 2011). Anglophone universities are the most popular destination, such as the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), Australia, and Canada (Ryan, 2011; Verbik & Lasanowski, 2007).

International students help provide a global experience for the universities, in addition to their contribution to the host country economy (Ramachandran, 2011). The UK, as the focus of this study and one of the most visited countries, have benefited from the overseas students. During 2011-12, data show that international (European and non-European) students in the UK generated up to £3.6 billion in tuition fees and £7.37 billion in off-campus expenditure (Universities UK, 2014). Furthermore, their presence in the classroom means that both the home students and international students can share perspectives and learn through the experiences of others who come from different backgrounds (Ramachandran, 2011).

However, recent policies that implemented stricter rules on UK visa application (Morgan & Matthews, 2014) might have caused a decrease in number of international students at British universities. The Higher Education Founding Council for England (2014) considered this first decline in past three decades as a warning for their higher education institutions to put more effort in attracting foreign learners.

As a result, British universities are under pressure to improve not only their quality of teaching and learning, but also the international students' health and wellbeing. There has been more awareness for the later, particularly since health and wellbeing are considered as part of the factors influencing academic performance (Ansari & Stock, 2010). A relevant aspect that can be observed is the students' dietary health. Indeed, changes in diet have long been reported as a welfare issue for international students worldwide (Edwards, Hartwell, & Brown, 2010; Hannigan, 2007; Macrae, 1997).

Taking these matters into account, we conducted a primary study that aimed at understanding wellbeing of international students in the UK. More specifically, we investigated their dietary experiences, including eating habits and the factors that might influence their diet when living away from their home country. Comprehending these issues from the international students' perspectives might help higher education institutions in their attempt to improve students' wellbeing and satisfaction rate.


During their sojourn in attaining higher education abroad, international students may be exposed to cultural differences that result in acculturation. One of the changes that students have to cope with is a different food culture, which may lead to changes in dietary habits (Satia-Abouta, 2003). These changes may have health consequences such as obesity and chronic diseases (Gilbert & Khokhar, 2008; Papadaki & Scott, 2002).

Nevertheless, recent research is limited regarding the food habits and dietary health of international students when studying abroad (Hartwell, Edwards, & Brown, 2011). Most studies have indicated that consumption of fruit and vegetable decreased (Alakaam, Castellanos, Bodzio, & Harrison, 2015; Edwards, Hartwell, & Brown, 2010; Kremmyda, Papadaki, Hondros, Kapsokefalou, & Scott, 2008; Perez-Cueto, Verbeke, Lachat, & Remaut De Winter, 2008; Reeves & Henry, 2000). Increased consumption of fast food and sugary snacks were also reported (Alakaam et al., 2015; Cappellini & Yen, 2013; Kremmyda et al., 2008). International students were aware of the bad effects of fast food and confectionery consumption; some revealed that they felt guilty about this (Alakaam et al., 2015). However, as far as most international students were concerned, it was part of an adjustment process to the new food culture (Brown, Edwards, & Hartwell, 2010; Cappellini & Yen, 2013). …

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