Being successful in the Kasteel Well program requires a delicate balancing act. Between traveling, planning, homework, and extracurriculars, it can be difficult to remember another very important task – maintaining your health. Proper hydration, nutrition, and physical well-being are easily neglected when you’re eating piles of sugar-coated waffles in Bruges or falling behind in endless reading assignments! Luckily, my personal experiences at the castle, combined with those of my fellow castle-dwellers, prove that staying healthy at Emerson’s European Center is not impossible. It just takes a little practice and awareness.
In theory, staying hydrated seems obvious and simple. At the castle, water is readily available from the sinks in the rooms or the pitchers in the dining hall. However, while traveling, it is surprisingly difficult to get enough water. Depending on the country, water can cost as much or more than beer, and tap water is largely unheard of. Try asking specifically for tap water at restaurants, but be prepared to pay several euros for small 0.2, 0.3, or 0.5 liter bottles. Juice is an okay alternative that costs around the same. However, the best method of staying hydrated is investing in a water bottle. Try to get one with a good filter that lasts at least three months, so there’s less worry of how clean the tap water is in whatever country you happen to be in. They can be a bit more expensive, but will ultimately be cheaper than paying for doctor’s bills! If you don’t own a water bottle, buy a plastic one when you reach your destination and use it the entire weekend, then throw it out. Refilling a water bottle sometimes requires some creativity: if your hostel doesn’t have a designated fountain, refill your bottle in the bathroom or a kitchen sink.
One of the best things to spend your money on while traveling is good food. But if you’re eating less healthy on the weekends (which is very likely to happen thanks to time and money constraints) take special care during your days at the castle. Not every meal the dining hall staff cooks gives you all the nutrients you need, so combine the salad bar and spread of cold foods with the hot meal. One of the biggest problems with the castle dining hall is the limited selection of food. To avoid getting sick of it, switch up how you get your vitamins, protein, and other nutrients: for example, one day eat the eggs they often serve at lunch but make a sandwich with cold cuts the next.
Luckily this one is easy, and you might get more exercise than you realize. Each weekend you’ll be walking around a city, usually several kilometers a day (1 kilometer is a little over 1/2 mile). If you like walking (or need a more exercise), find a park and spend a few hours exploring, or skip the public transport. The town of Well, where the castle is located, is small but very picturesque and walkable – or run-able! Within the castle itself, the countless stairs you will go up and down each day only help your leg muscles, although the stairs can get quite tiring. For a different sort of workout, rent a bike (either for a day, weekend, or semester) to use around Well. The rent for the semester might be an expensive investment depending on your budget, but there’s nothing like being able to bike to and from Germany in a couple of hours. More formal workouts are possible by visiting the castle’s tiny gym (which offers bikes, weights, and gazelles) or joining sports nights (these are run by the RA’s and the students vote on what games to play).
This only offers a few ideas for staying healthy while studying abroad and traveling at the castle. At the core, awareness and balance are key. What other methods do you have for keeping up your health while traveling?