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miércoles, 6 de diciembre 2023
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The culinary journey of students from other regions at UdeA

By: Andrea Carolina Vargas Malagón - Journalist

Eating is an act of cultural transfer. This is reflected in the book "Saberes y preparaciones de alimentos de los territorios de origen de estudiantes de la Universidad de Antioquia - Colombia"+-. The publication took shape within UdeA's School of Nutrition and Dietetics and highlights the meaning of food and the dynamics of those who come from different parts of the country to the University.

Antioquia, Arauca, Guajira, Cauca, Caquetá, Caldas, Cundinamarca, Córdoba, Chocó, Risaralda, Nariño and Putumayo are the departments of origin of the students who collaborated with the research. Photo: Vecteezy image bank

"This food reminds me of my childhood," "I miss my mother's seasoning," and "It smells like food made at home" are some expressions that we have probably heard and even said. The fact is that eating, which is taken for granted and mundane, is a cultural act that shows who we are and where we come from, besides being an indispensable and instinctive process for survival.

"It is not only about the food that is eaten but about what it represents, how it unites us to our land and gives us identity and belonging to a family and a community," said Luz Marina Arboleda, coordinator of the research group Socioanthropology of Research, attached to the School of Nutrition and Dietetics, and principal investigator of the project that resulted in the book Saberes y preparaciones de alimentos de los territorios de origen de estudiantes de la Universidad de Antioquia - Colombia (Food and cuisine from the hometowns of Universidad de Antioquia students in Colombia).

In 104 pages and through 13 recipes of native foods from different regions of the country, Luz Marina Arboleda, together with four other researchers and two collaborators, managed to merge the rigor of the scientific method with the traditional knowledge of UdeA from different regions of the country. On the one hand, they did it as an exercise to rescue what is local and, on the other, to understand the meaning of food beyond a biological need.

Cheese mote


1 lb of cheese

2 tablespoons of suero or sour cream

1 red onion

1 green onion sprig

1 tomato

4 cloves of garlic

1 pinch of salt

1 lb yam

½ large bell pepper


1. Peel the yam and cut it into small cubes, then place it in a pot with enough water to cover it. 

2. Place the pot on the stove and boil the water for 35 to 45 minutes or until the yam has dissolved and thickened.

3. Peel and finely chop the red onion, tomato, green onion, bell pepper and garlic. Mix the ingredients and sauté them in a frying pan with a tablespoon of oil.

4. Pour the sofrito into the pot with the yam, mix and add two glasses of water (400 ml). Boil for 25 minutes to integrate the flavors.

5. Chop the costeño cheese into cubes and add it to the soup. Add two tablespoons of suero to the preparation and cook for 10 minutes over low heat.

6. Serve the soup and enjoy.

In total, 38 students from the Medellín, Urabá and Southwest campuses, from 12 of the 32 departments of the country, were the voices of this research. Their memories and experiences convey the changes in the food they eat, their adaptation to their new environments, and the mechanisms they find to cope with their new reality and mitigate the impact on their daily lives.

For migrant students, concepts such as sharing, family and home become meaningful when referring, for example, to an arepa de yuca, a cheese mote or that pumpkin jam reserved for a special occasion. Recipes from their places of origin carry the history with which students identify and feel safe.

"Food makes you feel at home. For me, eating something that reminds me of my family is the best because it is like being at home, in your own land and with the people you know," said Zaira Agreda, an eighth-semester student of the Nutrition and Dietetics program at UdeA who was part of the focus group of migrant students. Her place of origin is the Kamëntsa indigenous community, located in Putumayo.

Kamëntsa indigenous community

According to the Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia (ONIC) (National Indigenous Organization of Colombia), one of the traditions of the Kamëntsa people, who live in the Sibundoy Valley in Putumayo, is the commemoration of All Souls' Day. They are farmers par excellence, mainly with cold climate crops such as corn, potatoes, squash, and beans.

A culture shock that affects health and the experience at the Uni

The change in dietary practices not only produces a cultural shock. It is also a factor that affects the physical and emotional health of migrant students. The change in their eating habits commonly causes nutritional imbalances that lead to physical ailments, which makes it more difficult for them to adapt to their new reality.

"Students state that dietary change impacts their adaptation to university life. On occasion, they have lost weight or become ill. Several have even opted out of their studies due to the inability to cope with the challenges related to dietary dynamics," explained Hiliana Arias, a sociologist and co-investigator of the project. She is also the coordinator of University Welfare at UdeA's School of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The book Saberes y preparaciones de alimentos de los territorios de origen de estudiantes de la Universidad de Antioquia - Colombia is not only a publication that allows you to learn a little about the identity of the territories and understand that food is a form of cultural transfer. It also serves the University as input to find other ways to encourage student retention (see featured area).

Food guarantees student retention

The UdeA community also reflects the multiculturalism and multiple ethnicities characteristic of Colombia. According to figures from Data UdeA, in the first semester of 2023, 3,498 students from other regions enrolled, which amounts to almost 10% of the total enrollment for that period. In corridors, classrooms, laboratories and other spaces of the University, thousands of students must go through cultural adaptation, a "requirement" inherent in their professional training. 

Given this reality and what food means for students in socioeconomic terms, UdeA is committed to ensuring student retention through the food service for students through a program coordinated by the Office of University Welfare. It seeks to make the adaptation to university life less traumatic.

"By knowing how students adapt and what food means from a cultural point of view, the University will be able to offer food alternatives that are close to the daily lives of students' homes so that they feel included and that their ways of seeing and conceiving the world are also important," said David Hernandez, a historian with a master's degree in collective health. He is a co-investigator of the project Saberes y preparaciones de alimentos de los territorios de origen de estudiantes de la Universidad de Antioquia – Colombia.

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