International students miss their native food

By Annie Bohling, Jaci John, Ryan Swanigan and Joanne Tan, NewsNetNebraska

A new country means new food, but that hasn’t stopped some international students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from keeping native foods in their diets when they can.

Huiming Lu and Linzhen Ruan, roommates and UNL seniors who are studying marketing, say they eat Chinese food 80 to 90 percent of the time.

“I like Imperial Palace in the (Nebraska) Union and on 27th (and Vine streets),” said Ruan, 23 of Xi’an, Shaanxi, China.

Lu, 25, of east Hefei, China, cooks.

Linzhen Ruan and Huiming Lu like to eat their native Chinese food most of the time.

“I cook because of the taste and because it’s healthier,” she said.

Ruan also likes to cook, but said it’s hard to find the time and energy.

The two said Chinese food in America is different — it’s not as spicy, for one.

“Chinese restaurants here cook for Americans’ taste,” Lu said.

And American Chinese food has more sugar, Ruan said, and sometimes even cheese.

“We don’t have orange chicken in China,” she said. “I don’t know what that is.”

But, some Chinese food in Lincoln, like that at Imperial Palaces, is “pretty close,” they said.

unnamed-2One of Ruan’s favorite native dishes is braised green beans. Lu likes to cook Szechuan beef and vegetables. Traditional dishes during the Chinese New Year include rice bowls with sweet or sour sauce centers, chicken soup and dumplings.

As for American fast food, Lu said she doesn’t eat it often, but likes the occasional hamburger at Burger King or Wendy’s.

“I try not to eat it either,” Ruan said. “But I like Chick-Fil-A and Raising Canes. Their food and sauce is so delicious, but I feel so guilty afterward.”

Living in an apartment has improved the women’s diets, they said.

“When I was living in the dorms and eating in the dining halls, I gained 10 pounds,” Ruan said.

Lu agreed, noting that her downfall was the fried food and tempting desserts.

Watch international student Valerie Deng Jia Xia cook a traditional Chinese pancake:


The experience for international student Nick Percy, born in Glasgow, Scotland, has been almost the opposite.

The 20-year-old health, exercise and nutritional science student lost weight when he came to UNL.

“It was a challenge coming here and being independent and choosing my own meals,” Percy said. “At home, your parents have dinner on the table for you.”

Plus, it’s harder for Percy to find traditional Scottish meals in the states.

unnamed-4“Haggis is pig intestines — like meatloaf — with oatmeal and vegetables cooked in it,” Percy said. “People here don’t think that’s very appealing.”

Percy gets stranger looks about his favorite breakfast dish — black pudding, which is fried pig blood and pork.

Percy said that both countries eat a lot of meat, but food culture in the U.S. is different in some ways.

“Fast food is not nearly as popular back home as it is here,” Percy said. “It’s more of a last resort if you need to get food. If we want to have a meal, we’ll go out and buy the beef.”

Another difference between the culture of food in Scotland and the U.S. is meal portions throughout the day.

Nick Percy is from Ventnor, England, but was born in Glasgow, Scotland.

Nick Percy is from Ventnor, England, but was born in Glasgow, Scotland.

“We usually have a big breakfast, a snack for lunch and a big dinner,” Percy said.

Percy said, for breakfast in Lincoln, he might eat scrambled eggs, watermelon, chocolate milk, a bowl of cereal, and, if he’s still hungry, a bagel.

Granted, Percy is an athlete and a large guy. He is a thrower for the Nebraska Men’s Track and Field Team and plays rugby for fun.

Lunch might be a chicken breast with pasta and a large bowl of salad. Dinner varies, he said, whether it’s back home or in Lincoln. It might be meatballs and eggs, or steak and kidney pie or mashed potatoes and sausage.

“I miss home cooking,” Percy said.

That, and chocolate.

“British chocolate is much better than American chocolate,” Percy said. “I can say that for certain.”

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