The first time I lived abroad I found it challenging, but I realize now that it was an important first step. I lived in Australia, where they speak English (well, Aussie English…ha). I could order food and understand ingredients, yet there were still many obstacles! Almost everything packaged was labeled “May Contain…” with something that I was allergic to. The only crackers that I could find to eat were Carr’s crackers imported from England. Even some wines said that they “May contain traces of nuts.” It was impossible to find ice cream that I could eat, or really any chocolate for that matter. As far as eating goes, it wasn’t easy. Living wise, it was amazing and totally worth all the food quandaries I faced.
In Australia, I lived with four other girls. There were five of us in a small two bedroom apartment, with a “study,” also known as an enclosed porch with big Venetian blinds. I lived there. I wanted to make sure that I had my own space. I didn’t want to have to worry about my allergies in my bedroom. I already had to be careful in our common space.
The girls were respectful about my allergies. I had my own sponge and dishes that I used. We had a dishwasher luckily, which definitely helped. I had to be careful, but I felt comfortable there. It was also my first experience living in an apartment and having roommates outside of a dorm setting.
I learned a lot while living in Australia. I learned my different levels of comfort, how to live somewhere unknown, and how to find food, even when the going is tough! Without this first living abroad experience, this second one in Italy would have been more stressful.
Living abroad with food allergies here is more complex because of the language barriers. I don’t speak very much Italian yet. In this part of Italy no one speaks English. It isn’t touristy at all. It is a big adjustment! Every ingredient is in Italian. I can’t eat gelatto or any chocolate (you know…the really important things in life ;) ). I am good at adapting to new places, and even with these new hurdles, I have found enjoyment in this unfamiliar adventure abroad!