Allergy-Friendly Study Abroad Guide: Paris, London, and Oslo

Rocio studied abroad in London, Paris, and Oslo while managing a shellfish allergy. She is currently a sophomore at University of California, Irvine where she’s majoring in Political Science. You can find her on Spokin @rocio and on Instagram @rociocelesterivera.

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Tell us about you!

Where did you study abroad?

Paris, France, London, U.K., & Oslo, Norway.

How did you choose your study abroad location?

I chose my study abroad location based on the program and the academic topic, as well as the city and country. For Paris, the program was about social justice and activism and I had always wanted to travel to Paris, so the possibility of living in the city caught my attention. For London, the program was about global cities and urbanization and I have always been interested in British culture and government. For Oslo, the program was about the Norwegian welfare system, a system that I had learned about in class and wanted to see how it functions and learn more about in person. I have also had a fascination with the Nordic nations that are considered to be some of the happiest in the world. Overall I knew that I wanted to study in Europe and do programs related to my major.

Had you been out of the country before studying abroad and did you speak the local language? 

No, I had not been out of the country before studying abroad and I did not speak French but did have a class while in France and I did not speak Norwegian but English is widely spoken in Norway.

Did you plan anything ahead of time?

I did research and watched videos about how others have managed allergies abroad. I also learned how to say that I am allergic in French. When I was planning a weekend trip, I researched the area and its cuisine and had a virtual allergy card prepared in that country’s language in case I needed it. I also got re-tested for my allergies before going abroad to see if there were any changes, and made sure to bring allergy medication with me to last the entire duration of my programs.

What are your best tips for studying abroad with food allergies?

Learn how to say what you are allergic to in another country’s language and use Google Translate to take pictures of menus and ingredient lists. Ask questions and advocate for yourself. Put the local emergency numbers into your phone and make sure your friends know about your allergy, especially if you have a shared living area. Do research ahead of time and work with your school and program to make sure you take care of yourself.

Did you have any concerns about traveling with food allergies?

Yes, I was concerned about communicating my food allergy at restaurants and also sharing a kitchen with roommates. I learned how to say that I am allergic to shellfish in French and that in French they don’t really have a word for shellfish, so that the word for seafood is used instead. I also learned the words for shrimp, crab, and lobster. I used Google Translate to take photos of ingredient lists and translate them before buying food or snacks. I found that most restaurants were understanding and accommodating and understood allergies. I also tried to eat at restaurants that did not serve shellfish and if I did, to let them know and ask questions about potential cross-contamination. When ordering delivery, I only ordered from restaurants that did not serve shellfish. I also told my friends and roommates that I was allergic to shellfish and I would research a restaurant before we went out to eat. They would also let me know if they had shellfish in the kitchen and that they would keep it in a separate area.

What airline did you fly? How did you handle accommodations and airplane food?

I flew AirFrance and United and I ate the plane food. I also brought snacks, which included granola bars, dried fruit, and fruit bars, in addition to bringing my own reusable water bottle.

What were your living + dining arrangements? How did you manage daily meals?

In Paris and London, I stayed in an apartment, bought my food at a grocery store, and also ate out. In Oslo, I stayed in a program-managed hostel and ate at a dining hall.

What were your 3 favorite places to eat in each city you stayed in?

La Brigade: A great place to get the classic French steak frites that is affordable and safe. The menu is simple and straightforward and the staff are kind and helpful
Passager: The food here is delicious and the staff and reassuring and kind when it comes to making sure there isn’t cross contamination. The daily special does change so keep an eye out for what’s on that. Delicious grilled cheese, bagels, and pancakes.
Novettino: The sandwiches here are so delicious and I love that you can order using a touchscreen outside the restaurant, which allows you to change the language of the menu and see the ingredients. You can choose a certain sandwich or make your own. I think there is also a place to indicate your allergies on the touchscreen. One of my favorite places.

Half Cup: One of my favorite places to get brunch in London. The menu is clear and the staff are helpful for answering any questions. Really beautiful café.
My Old DutchThe staff is very kind and asked whether anyone in the group has a food allergy before I even mentioned mine. Great service. The pancakes are delicious and there’s both savory and sweet options!
Seoul FoodGreat place for Korean corn dogs. I have only had the corn dogs, and the staff were understanding when I explained that I have a shellfish allergy, and the staff also explained that they use a separate fryer for shellfish. The corn dogs are delicious.


Joe & The Juice: I really love the smoothies and sandwiches here. The menu is also very helpful and the staff is willing to answer questions. The food is consistent and I ate here many times when in Oslo
Georg Sverdrups hus: This cafe at the University of Oslo has simple snacks and sandwiches. Most items are individually packaged and have the ingredients written on them as well as by the item in the display case. A great place for a break with tea and a treat!
Peppe’s PizzaThe pizza here is good and you can make your own pizza or choose one. The ingredients are listed on the menu as well and the staff is very helpful.

Is there any food your study abroad location is known for that you were able to have safely?

In Paris I was able to have Steak Frites at La Brigade, Fish and Chips at the Laughing Halibut and tea and sandwiches at the Great Court Restaurant in London.

What other places did you visit during your trip?

I went to Dublin, Geneva, Croatia, Portugal, Hungary, and Luxembourg! My favorite spots in these cities were: VaSano Aldo pasta, Auberge de Saviese, Blue Amsterdam Feyrouz, and Hungry Donkey

Besides the food, were there any fun experiences or favorite things you did?

Taking a road trip across Iceland, going to the Atomium museum, going to theatre shows in London, going to markets in London, going on boat rides in canals and to islands, going to art and history museums, going to an amusement park, and visiting palaces and cathedrals.
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