Food is something that we all will have to deal with while on exchange. The 3 main options are the school’s meal plan, eating out or by cooking meals for yourself. Here’s a brief guide to each.
This is the most expensive option and not recommended to do on a daily basis. Eating out typically costs around $15 for an average meal. These food options are also typically fast food which is obviously not very healthy.
Dining Halls in UMD
In UMD, if your living arrangement does not have a kitchen, it is mandatory to get the unlimited meal plan from the school that starts from about $2000. This gives you unlimited access to the 3 dining halls around school. In this case food from the dining halls will probably form 90% of your meals while on exchange in order to get your money’s worth. While the selection of foods at the dining halls is great, it cycles every other week making meals pretty repetitive.
As I stayed in an apartment and am comfortable cooking, I chose not to go with the unlimited meal plan and instead got a block meal plan of 50 meals; there are plans of 100 and 200 meals as well. This entitled me to access the dining hall 50 times, which I use on days I did not have time to cook, i.e. lunches on days where I have a full day of lessons.
Cooking might be a skill worth picking up as it is significantly cheaper, a meal cooked for about 4 people would cost me about $10. However, this is best suited for groups due to the convenience of cooking for scale rather than an individual.
When cooking for yourself, not only do you have the freedom to cook whatever you want, you can also use it as a means to meet new people. My friends and I threw potluck parties every month, making new friends and learning more about their cultures over food. Apart from the other fun things to do while in the US, these gatherings with friends are one of my most cherished experiences over the exchange.