Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs NY, the first American university that I experience first-hand. I am aware of America’s campus-culture which stands in strong contrast with the more loosely organised style of student life at most, if not all European university. However, this observation on American campus-culture is largely based on American Pie movies and media coverage which cannot really be called objective. Therefore, I see my trip to Skidmore College as the perfect opportunity to test this hypothesis. I am in Saratoga Springs to represent FASoS during EuroSim, a simulation of the European Institutions, and stay here for 5 days. Although I’m not sleeping on campus I do have most of my lunches and dinners there, and that’s exactly what strikes me most about the campus-culture: the overload of food. Lunch on the first day of the convention is my first encounter with the cafeteria. I feel like walking in an all-inclusive holiday resort with various different fresh-cooking corners, ice-cream and waffle machines, twelve kinds of cereals, fresh pizza corner, Asian corner, veggie corner, Western dinner and buffet corner etc. I cannot believe that I am in an educational institute. Overenthusiastically, I walk around without realising my plate looks like a bad miniature version of the Eifel tower and I need a second plate to fulfil my demands. In short, as always with the all-you-can-eat concept, I prove the theory of diminishing returns and I feel like never eating again at the end of my lunch.
At first sight, the concept seems great: a central place for all students to have their meals with a wide variety to choose from. However, it also makes me think about its disadvantages. First, it is well-known that the Western world, specifically America, has a growing problem with obesity and I don’t think that all-you-can-eat cafeterias in universities help address the problem. Second, studying in America isn’t cheap to say the least and having a cafeteria that cost each student around $12.000 a year does not help. Third, having unlimited access to put food on your plate increases the amount of food waste. Fourth, students do not learn to cook for themselves. I know that not having to cook or doing groceries save time, and thus can be seen as an advantage. However, I genuinely enjoy my daily walk to the supermarket where I can enjoy free coffee (honestly it isn’t bad in Helmstraat), and start my hunt for the latest offers which save me a lot of money on my monthly grocery budget. Furthermore, I know how much food my body needs on a daily basis and by buying my own groceries I feel less tempted to overload my plate.
Personally I loved my time in the Skidmore College cafeteria but I was more than happy to return to my daily walk to the supermarket. Moreover, summer is coming so my body needs to be beach ready!
All photos © Brian Megens