Solving KAIST’s International Food Crisis

29 Oct 2015   kisa

Author: Mr. Wisal Abdullah

Amongst other cultural disparities that international students get to experience during their stay at KAIST, Korean food is the one that outshines them all. Ranging from the sizzling Samgeopsal, staple appetizer Kimchi , the Soft Tofu Stew, Tteokbokki  to the instant noodles Ramyeon, Korean food, as diverse as it is, is still isn’t much like any food that an average international gets to eat at his/her home. This difference of tastes coupled with religious and culinary beliefs of many internationals (Vegetarians, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists etc) and the amount of food expenses (3500 Won/meal) at Kaimaru in a limited monthly student scholarship makes the issue of provision of nutritious, affordable and belief-appropriate food an immediate concern.

In the view of this problem that a majority of internationals face on a daily basis, the most appropriate solution is joining the International Kitchen. Located in the West side of campus in W7 (next to the Aerospace Engineering Lab and KaiGrill), the Kitchen offers itself as a haven for the internationals who want to have affordable, nutritious and belief-appropriate food. International Kitchen’s membership costs (10000 won/ semester ) while its monthly costs range from (150000 won / month) to ( 90000 won / month) , depending on the size of the cooking group. To an international student, this sounds like the perfect plan. Teams there cook in teams that are made nationality-wise.

But dare I say, here’s where the problem lies too. Many internationals, although aware of the Kitchen, choose not to opt for it and many who do, choose to not go and cook there. The main reason for this is a fundamental lack of communication between students belonging to the same cuisine or nationality and this manifests in many students not joining it altogether as cooking is more of a team task than an individual one. The solution lies in manipulating the current structure of the kitchen and making it more cuisine centric than a nationality centric one since food, at the end of the day, is about the GENERAL cuisine and not nationality. There will be small trade offs for it since people of a nationality will have to eat a few dishes from the other nationality but at the end it will encourage cultural exchange and will provide international students to expand their options. In this way, internationals from countries such as Syria and Kenya (who are only a handful, numerically) will get to have food from their cuisine through fellow internationals from their neighboring countries. This will also allow more internationals to enter the kitchen and, on the requests of a larger international community, will also encourage the administration to open Kitchen branches in every block which will be a welcome change for busy students and researchers alike.

(Note: Students from Pakistan, Tajikistan, India and Bangladesh have started this practice. But a lot of more effort is required from students of other nationalities)

Disclaimer: This article was submitted by Mr. Wisal Abdullah for Write for KISA programme. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of KAIST International Students Association (KISA).  For more details visit the Write for KISA page.

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