Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Health, Nutrition and Exercise Science

First Advisor

Dr. Bernardo Michael, Dr. Seaton Tarrant


Throughout my experience as an international student at Messiah College, I have had the opportunity of encountering and experiencing great diversity in multiple areas of life: from personality and ideology, to language and food. These forces that weave the fabric of everyday life have slowly but surely transformed me. The exposure to the myriad of influences has undoubtedly been enriching. The process of navigating through the discovery and determination of who I am, who I could be and whom I aspire to be- my identity- has been confounding and distressing at times, as well as affirming and empowering at times. This project was inspired by many encounters and interactions with and around food that I experienced. These led to musings that led to questions about the influence of food and how it relates to identity and the central puzzle of a person’s place in this world.

Food is a powerful, and often imperceptible force that engages everyone. It fulfills our basic needs for survival but is much more than that. It is an artifact of culture- an expression of human ideas, values and feelings- and is a part of the unique cultural identity that an international student brings to the United States (U.S.). It influences and has been influenced by the economy, culture, religion, traditions and the environment of all civilizations. On a smaller scale, food impacts on our physical condition, feelings and decisions.

Humans are intertwined with food so that both mutually influence each other’s identities. Food nourishes us and reflects our identity. In turn, cultural environments and human decisions determine the way food is produced, handled, perceived and valued.

In this paper, the “international student” refers to a student on a F-1 visa and/or has spent a significant part of their developmental years outside of the U.S. While missionary kids (MKs) or third-cultural kids (TCKs) can fall into the criteria of the latter description, this paper does not use the term “international student” with reference to them. I began this project intending to survey the international students on their experiences and thoughts on food back in their home country and cultures that they were surrounded by prior to attending Messiah College in America. A literature review and preliminary planning for the project was conducted and a questionnaire to send out to international students were created (Appendix 1 & 2). However, the Covid-19 pandemic led to unexpected challenges that prevented data collection to be carried out as planned. Thus, substantial modification for the direction of the project was made.

The project is still about unfolding journey of one’s identity explored through the lens of food, but it has gained more personal touch including some reflections written in a memoir style form. The remainder of the paper is structured as short chapters that probes different facets of food studies and reflects on how it relates to the international student experience with personal stories forming the interludes. These seemingly disjointed sections are unified in a journey of gastronomy and self-discovery.

Included in

Food Studies Commons