You know, those people who romanticize studying abroad never show you how much work goes into it. From figuring out classes to getting everything squared away before you leave, there’s so many little things you need to take care of beforehand. It’s all worth it in the end, of course, but it's still so much! And that’s all before you even actually move.

Once you finally get there, you have a whole new array of difficulties waiting for you, and the one that I dreaded the most? Cooking.

As someone who couldn’t boil pasta without it breaking my teeth, trying to cook for myself for the first time in an entirely different country was not something I was looking forward to. From almost burning down the kitchen to mixing up all my spices, it was quite the journey, but hey, I’m still alive! So I guess it wasn’t the worst (still pretty bad though, not gonna lie).

I didn’t realize how much a meal plan made my life easier back at UMass. Cooking takes a lot of time and effort, and it's a lot of trial and error (more on the error side for sure). In the beginning, it was pretty difficult for me to get the hang of it, but as I kept at it, I started making actual edible food that I wasn’t worried was going to poison me!

Mahi in UCL T-shirt

"As a self-declared chef, here’s what I cooked while studying abroad.
It's not as hard as it seems, you just need to practice a bit and you’ll get there!"

Pasta & Quesadillas!

I can confidently say that I ate pasta almost every day when I first moved to London. It was just so quick and easy and you didn’t need a lot to make it. I just had a pot, a pan, obviously pasta, and some store-bought pasta sauce. I got some cheese to mix in as well and that was pretty much it.

Sometimes, if I had the time, I’d try making garlic bread as well! I just quickly diced two cloves of garlic, mixed it with some butter, put it on a slice of bread and toasted it in a pan. Easy!

Another quick fix for me were quesadillas. I’d get some ready to eat chicken from the store (it was Tesco for me—a local grocery store you’ll find anywhere in London) or just pan fry some chicken with taco seasoning, and put it between two tortillas, add some cheese and veggies (if I had any), flip it on a pan and that was it!

Indian Cooking: Worth it in the end!

I’m Indian, so I grew up on a lot of curries & rice. Now that I had the freedom to cook whatever I wanted to, I thought I’d try Indian cooking as well.

Here’s the issue — Indian cooking is A LOT of work, however, it is so worth it in the end! The flavors were just so complex and yummy, and I had so much fun making it as well. 

Mahi's dry chicken curry
A dry chicken curry, or “chicken fry” as we call it, that I made. My mom had to be on Facetime for two hours to teach me how to make it, so shout out to her!

Anyway, Indian cooking was definitely a “cook on Sunday night and keep it through the rest of the week” situation — but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless. I usually just pair whatever curry I make with basmati rice or a chapati (a type of Indian bread). After this, I’d eat some more rice with greek yogurt (which was my substitute for hung curd) to cool my stomach down from all the spices!

Miscellaneous Recipe Cooking

Miscellaneous Recipe Cooking (MRC) is a term I coined for when you find a random recipe online and just try to make it! My favorite website is — she curates her recipes for people in their 20s and has some delicious dishes that you can make in minutes. I tried her Halal cart-style chicken over rice recipe and have been making it at least once a week ever since!

I also just make some other random stuff I find online — like fried rice with teriyaki chicken, chicken burritos, and chickpea lettuce wraps! It's really just about trying something new.

So that’s my little cooking spiel! I know it can be intimidating when you first start, and it's quite difficult shifting from a meal plan to cooking for yourself — but you got this! Try to budget in a way so you can eat out on days you’re going to be busy, and stock up on frozen meals as well.

You might have some horrible fails when you first start cooking, but over time, it's gonna be a piece of cake! You just have to keep at it.

What are you planning to cook when you’re abroad? Do you have any suggestions for other students on the same journey? communications [at] honors [dot] umass [dot] edu (Let us know) as we’d love to hear your story as well!

A plate of fried rice with teriyaki chicken
A plate of fried rice with teriyaki chicken
Pasta with tomato sauce and a slice of garlic toast
Pasta with tomato sauce and a slice of garlic toast
Halal cart-style chicken over rice
Halal cart-style chicken over rice
Quesadillas with chicken and guacamole
Quesadillas with chicken and guacamole