I think it is a safe bet to say that many college students, at some point in their post-secondary education, study abroad. Like many, I feel that this is an invaluable experience for students and being gluten intolerant should not get in the way of an abroad experience! Some parts of the world are more gluten-friendly than others, but in general, most Western countries are better able to handle gluten intolerance than the United States.
Before traveling, it is important to look up any existing GF guides, for example Maria Ann Roglieri has written guides for New York City, Washington D.C., and Italy. In her guides, she catalogs the different restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels that serve gluten free food, if they speak English, price estimates and dress code! I would also get in contact with local Celiac societies, which can be very helpful in recommending restaurants, accommodations, where to find GF foods, etc. Also, Gluten Free Passport offers iPhone applications and these nifty travel cards which come in several languages. You can print out and laminate the cards and take them with to restaurants, they briefly explain Celiac disease, provides a list of common gluten-containing elements, and helpful phrases.
Once you figure out your destination, the next step is investigating airlines. Most airlines now offer gluten free meals on international flights - but it is extremely important to check! For example, as of March 15, 2010 Continental Airlines will no longer serve GF meals on their international flights. Fortunately, now there are tons of in-flight snack options like Glutenfreeda’s own granola in three flavors, Glutenfreeda’s instant oatmeal, and now Udi’s bread which, in addition to being shelf-stable for a week, makes a darn good PB&J sandwich that you don’t have to toast - but that’s another story.
Finally, work with your program: group dinners and field/day trips are typically planned months in advance and arrangements can often be made to accommodate a GF meal. But really, speak to your program coordinator/professors ASAP to ensure that any potential snags can be sorted out before you leave - this is not something you want to let go until the last minute.
I am off to Rome for Spring quarter and my next article will be the realities of living and studying abroad with Celiac disease.
If you have any questions, comments or ideas of your own - let me know! Feel free to contact me at this link.
- Kelsey Ganes, University of Washington student