Campus Food: Yay or Nay?

I saved the most important topic for the final post on my study abroad experience last Fall, the food! To help you decide yay or nay, let me tell you about my experience.

When deciding on a location for my study abroad semester I wanted to live on campus for the full experience, that included eating on campus so I didn’t have to cook. This involved choosing a meal plan to cover most of my meals.

Meal Plans

The App State website had all the information I thought I needed. I had a choice of four levels of food plan:

Meal Account Option Price Per Semester
Low Option $1,055 with state sales tax added
Standard Option $1,357 with state sales tax added
High Option $1,576 with state sales tax added
Super Option $1,917 with state sales tax added

I opted for the standard option to cover most of my meals while on campus. I figured that I would cover lunch and dinner on weekdays, leaving the weekend free for me to eat off campus. Meal plans can be used for any on-campus food purchase and outlets included:

  • All Food Services locations, including franchises like McAlister’s Deli, cafeterias and Blended juice bar.
  • The Bake Shop – I did not purchase here as it was on another site across town.
  • The Markets (campus convenience stores) for food and food-related purchases – I did frequent the market.
  • Crossroads Coffee House – probably where I spent the most time and money.
  • The Wired Scholar Cafe – where I would go if Crossroads was closed.
  • Vending machines – handy for late night snacks in the dorms.
  • Concession stands at home football games – worth trying once.

Was it worth it?

The quality of the food in the cafeteria was below average. The salad bar was fresh but all other options were quite processed. The Sandford Commons cafeteria was good when you felt like a burger, pizza, sub or junk food. I rarely ate in the cafeteria.

Instead, McAlister’s Deli received my regular patronage. The nachos, subs, baked potatoes and lemonade were worth the expense. In my mind the cost was not a factor as I had the money to spend.

The main disadvantage to campus food was the monotony. There was little change in the the variety over the semester and by the end I rarely ate on campus (there is a great Thai restaurant in Boone). As a result I struggled to use all the credit on my meal plan by the end of semester. I ended up stocking up on junk food and gifts for friends, like Snoopy with chocolates, from the market. I would shout friends to meals just to use the funds, any remaining funds were forfeited to the university.

The majority of my plan was spent on Frappacinos from the Crossroads Cafe. I became a regular and that was money well spent, I really enjoyed the German Chocolate Cake flavour. The best meal I had came from the market freezer. I wish I had of taken a picture of the box to show you but below is a picture of the meal after it was heated. It looks so good for a microwave meal and tasted great. I was excited by the crisp veges as the meal was essentially steamed by the sauce. Surprisingly delicious!

What should I have done?

The App State Student ID Card also doubles as a debit card by way of an Express Account. By loading funds onto your express account you can use it to pay for anything on campus. Not only food at all the same outlets as the meal plan but also for non food purchases at the market, bookstore, printing and laundry. I highly recommend using your express account for laundry so you don’t have to have a stash of quarters on hand.

What should you do?

If you are planning a semester study abroad, research the best options for you. Check if funds will be refunded if not used. If you can access an account for both food and non-food purchases go with that one as apposed to just a meal plan. Load only the minimum you think necessary and top up as you go, unless you don’t want to worry, then top up at the start and go on a spending spree towards the end if you have money left over.

No matter where you eat, make sure you try what the locals eat. Part of an international experience is trying new things that you do not have at home. You never know what may become your new favourite food, like apple crumble pizza and F’reals.

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