Our first impression was when we first went to Kårrestaurangen (The main restaurant located in the Student Union) There are three daily options where you can choose between meat, fish or a vegan dish. Always well-balanced and not at all boring. We can feel the inclusion for this group of people, which is not that small here. That’s not the only option at that building, there’s also a place called “Express” where you can buy take away with a student discount and there you also always have a vegan option. We feel that vegetarians/vegans don’t have to worry about finding their meals while studying at Chalmers.
Since we are in an unusual situation due to the pandemic, we are not on campus all of the time. And since we are students that are on a budget, we don’t necessarily eat take-out or in a restaurant every day. So here are the experiences from two perspectives, the vegetarian from a not so vegan culture (Nathaly) and the not-yet vegetarian from a vegan friendly culture (Sena).
In Ecuador, our traditional food usually involves some kind of meat. It was a bit of a challenge, as a vegetarian, going out to eat with friends or family back home, but I always found a way to make it possible. Sometimes I found it cheaper than normal dishes, which was a great advantage for me. When I knew I was going to come to Sweden to do my masters, I started the research about student life here. That research included the food culture, which was the least of my concerns because Sweden is known for its sustainable way of living. And being vegetarian or vegan truly makes a positive impact on the environment by having less CO2 emissions when cultivating vegetables rather than producing meat. And I wasn’t mistaken! At Kårrestaurangen, they even have a banner where they compare the gas emissions between meat, fish and vegan dishes. Truly inspiring to start eating consciously, I would say.
Because I was already used to eating vegetables and fruits, when I just moved here those were the things I was looking for. I always store grains in my kitchen – which are also known to be a good source of protein – such as beans, chickpeas and lentils. For carbs I like to have rice, pasta, corn, sometimes potatoes and my beautiful cooking bananas (luckily, I can find some of them here all the way from Ecuador). The vegetables I
use to complete my meals are spinach, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and the list can go on and on, but my completely favorites are mushrooms. I am not completely vegan, that’s why I also sometimes buy some cheese to use in my meals. It’s a process to leave it behind, and hopefully I will achieve the goal someday. I want to wrap up my perspective by letting you know that it doesn’t matter if you are not an excellent cooker, I wasn’t either when I first got here. There are a lot of apps or even online recipes about any dish you can think of.
At the beginning, I needed the inspiration so those apps (Tasty, Yummly) were my best friends when it comes to cooking. Now, I am really confident to prepare meals for myself and, occasionally, for some friends without even looking at any recipe. I guess practice does really make perfect. So as my student ambassador friend, Marija, once said: I will be finishing my studies with two degrees, MSc. in Biomedical Engineering and MSc. in vegetarian cooking and baking.
In Turkey, we have two types of meals: vegan (which contains olive oil) and non-vegan (which contains any kind of meat). And even though we have a lot of vegetarian recipes, we could also have trouble finding ingredients for those meals or, as Nathaly said, it was difficult to find vegetarian/vegan options when we wanted to eat out. I started a vegetarian diet a few months before the pandemic (for different personal reasons), and I researched how other Chalmers students got into this kind of lifestyle. According to the blog posts I read and the videos I watched; Chalmers was well adapted to this situation. It was possible and very accessible to find vegan options (even the milk you use in the coffee bought on campus). After starting my master’s programme, in Applied Mechanics, at Chalmers, I was delighted to see that the vegetarian/vegan world is even bigger, more diverse, and more important than I first thought.
I still eat a lot like I did back in Turkey. The salads consist of mainly tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, onions,
lemon sauce and some species. The olives at breakfast are the most common part of my daily life. I also like to have in my kitchen a lot of mushrooms and vegetables that I cook with olive oil. Spinach, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, celery, potatoes, peppers, and carrots are important ingredients in my main meals. Also, I
make sure to take the time to cook soups that contain grains, such as lentils, every week. I can find most of these ingredients in Gothenburg grocery stores. I am excited by the richness of vegetarian and vegan options available at the supermarket, although there are very few ingredients that I still cannot find, such as fresh mint.
One of the great advantages of studying at an international university for me is that when I talk with my friends about our culture, we always end up talking about food! We share new recipes and sometimes even try to cook together. If you are invited to an event, here in Gothenburg, you will always be asked about your food preferences and allergies. Food preparations are made accordingly. My first experience in this field was with the Chalmers International Student Committee (CIRC). Each semester, they prepare various orientation programs for international students who will start to study at Chalmers, and they started to contact us before we arrive. While we were still in our own countries, they sent us surveys and asked whether we are vegan/vegetarian and what kind of food we prefer (like bitter, sour, spicy, salty). To sum up, I want to draw attention to this: Being vegetarian or vegan is not just an individual’s dietary preference, it is a more sustainable choice for our entire world. 😊