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Oct 10, 2012 08:18 AM

College semester abroad—best location for the kosher student?

Wondering if folks on this board would have some advice for my nephew, an observant college student considering a semester abroad in Asia or Europe. What places are the most feasible for eating good kosher food for about 5 months? Of course the decision will hinge largely on the educational program, but food is a very important consideration. Anyone have any experience or advice?

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  1. Paris has to be #1 and London is not bad. I can't think of any place in Asia that I would deem good for kosher-keepers in the long term but I am sure the ones you'd imagine--Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore--would be the best bets.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DeisCane

      Melbourne > Sydney in terms of Jewish community. My wife spent a semester there. But as Gila points, most Jewish students live at home, rather than in dorms.

    2. My sister managed a semester in Amsterdam, although she had a kitchenette in her studio apartment that made things easier.

      Note that in many countries, the Netherlands included, most Orthodox students live at home rather than on-campus, meaning there's not much Jewish life at school, especially on Shabbos.

      1. If food is important because s/he's hoping to to eat 3 squares a day, it's a very long list.

        If s/he wants more than one place to eat, the list shortens to maybe 2 or 3 dozen cities - not including Israel.

        If fine food is wanted, the list shortens to Maybe 20 cities.

        The people on this list could probably name them for you, but maybe you want to narrow the requisition. And specify whether this student eats cooked vegan dishes in non-certified restaurants. And whether price is a consideration.

        13 Replies
        1. re: AdinaA

          Excellent points and good suggestions so far. I think the main consideration is the availability of 2 or 3 meals a day (breakfast being relatively easy to improvise). It wouldn't need to be "fine food." In terms of price, less extravagant would be preferred, and it would be great if there were a kosher grocer (or availability of kosher food in grocery stores) so he could stock up in his dorm or apt. He doesn't eat cooked vegan out in general, but if that 's the only choice in places in the Far East, that would be something to think about.
          Israel is not on the list since he's looking for a different experience.
          Proximity would be helpful-- if the only kosher food is far away from the main city, it would be harder to manage. I guess that's not easy to judge without knowing the institution, but any information would help. For example, in London, aren't the kosher establishments in the suburbs?
          Thanks again for the advice.

          1. re: serenarobin

            I would think the most important question is, does the school have a kosher meal plan. If the school has a meal plan then he won't starve. If there is no meal plan, then eating 2 meals a day will be difficult/expensive unless there is a cheap kosher restaurant right by campus.

            1. re: avitrek

              Or unless he has an apartment with a kitchen, and he's willing to cook. I cooked for myself in college.

            2. re: serenarobin

              University of Manchester in England, Charles University in Prague, Budapest, Madrid, Florence, Rome, Amsterdam, Chabad of Athens can probably do this, Istanbul certainly can but the community is very cautious about newcomers, Casablanca fez and Marrakech would feed him but the fellow students might not befriend him, Barcelona may be a tad marginal food wise but its an exciting city and he wouldn't starve, the food in Warsaw would get monotonous because the community is small, Krakow isn't large enough, Moscow has a large enough community, Strasbourg would feed him well, Frankfurt, Berlin, Milan, Zurich and Geneva are very pricy with great food in Geneva and plentiful meals in Zurich, - I know that there are European places I'm forgetting.

              Oxford, Cambridge, London.

              Singapore, Hong Kong have excellent food and universities, in Shanghai and Beijing I'll vouch for the Chabad food but not the quality of the university, Tokyo and Seoul can be huge distances form the community to the university, Chabad of Bangkok can certainly feed you.

              Melbourne and Sydney are big communities, Auckland will feed you but you will be almost the only shomer shabbat college student in the country (slight exaggeration)

              1. re: AdinaA

                What a wonderful list- thank you!
                I'll report back when he narrows down his choices a little bit and does some more research as suggested.
                In the meantime, if anyone knows some young people who have gone abroad, it would be great to hear about their experience with kosher eating.

                1. re: serenarobin

                  My niece and nephew both spent a college year abroad in Europe. Nephew was in Prague, niece in Paris.
                  Niece is a vegetarian and found Paris easier to handle than other cities because of the availabilities of kosher dairy restaurants. Many cities really only have kosher meat restaurants. Nephew enjoyed the food in Prague, but said he got much of his nutrition from beer.
                  Niece still goes to Paris 4 times per year (as well as all over Europe) and claims it is the best European choice for kosher food.

                  That said with Jews being constantly targeted in France, I would not be sending my child to live there for a semester. My youngest wants a semester in Europe, but I'm thinking she'll get either Israel of Montreal. With Montreal she can get a French influence without her parents being worried to death over her safety.

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    Bagelman, I know where you're coming from but Paris is still full of young, modern Jews walking around in kippot like young, modern Jews do in New York, except, well, they dress with more flair in Paris. And eat better.

                    The real danger may be that instead of going to med school he'll come back with come crazy idea like he wants to become a restaurant critic.

                    What i would worry about is that a kid inclined ot tikkun olam might trust new friends who invited him to some sort of authentic experience, like a meal in the wrong kind of neighborhood.

                    But if a kid is street smart and keeps his kippa in his pocket, Paris is still Paris. And it certainly has the best kosher food. Including great, cheap meals.

                    1. re: AdinaA

                      I love Paris, But my youngest is looking to spend a High School semester abroad, not a college year. My wife is not inclined to send a 16 year old girl,there based on all the current bad press about anti-Jewish acts in France.

                    2. re: bagelman01

                      Well, my student studied in Paris for a semester, and we went to visit him. None of us experienced any antisemitism. We did experience great food, and found the people to be very cordial.
                      Interestingly, my son is signed up to go to Israel in the Spring, and I'm not particularly happy about that. Perhaps you can assuage my concerns.

                      1. re: CookieLee

                        Great country for students. Safe, exotic and you can drink the water.

                        Hiking, scuba, rock climbing - and great food.

                        What will he be studying?

                        1. re: CookieLee

                          Cookie, there's a big difference between experiencing anti-semitism and being the victim of anti-Jewish violence such as the shootings at schools and the bombings at the market.
                          Waht were we taught as kids? Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. My daughter could withstand being called names, but not a bullet or firebomb. But the eating in Partis is great.

                      2. re: serenarobin

                        The advantage of Budapest, Berlin, Moscow, or several French, Austrailain and British Universities is that you are in cities with sizable Jewish communities with actual Shomer Shabbat college-aged students if not at your same university, the, at least, studying in the same city.

                        Buenos Aires is a great study-abroad city for Jewish kids. Vibrant community and local peers. (I know you specified Europe and Asia) The University is not first rank in most fields, but the experience is.

                        Singapore is also worth considering. Exotic but safe. fine universities. And a growing community with a couple of dozen single 20 something Israelis, Europeans and Americans there at university or working. Plus families. Food store, student meals, and t restaurants at the JCC/shul compound.

                    3. re: serenarobin

                      Regarding London, many of the Jewish students (both living at home and those from out of town) will live in the suburbs and commute back and forth to school. Primary reason for this is that the Jewish life is also in the suburbs. Also, plenty of students from out of London rent houses together, which might be an option for him.
                      Also, London has tons of cheap flights to all over Europe, so it could work as a base if he wants to visit lots of places.

                  2. No recommendations for a city, just a suggestion. If the school is near a synagogue, the student could work through them to find kosher sources. He might even find a family who'd provide him with room and board. My husband travels a lot and often contacts a local Temple for food recommendations (and to let them know he'll be attending services). He not only gets helpful hints on dining choices, but often is invited for home cooked meals. And there's always the option of regular care packages from home.