Katie Tzivanis – ELOA: Food, Culture, and Tourism in the Dominican Republic Study Abroad

In the Fall of 2019, I found myself applying for a Study Abroad Program in the Dominican Republic for the upcoming winter break. It was the Food, Culture, and Tourism program in the Dominican Republic taught by beloved Food Studies Professor, Alyshia Galvez and I was very keen on attending. If it weren’t for the Eugene Lang Opportunity Award I wouldn’t have had the life changing experience that I did. I know that phrase is cliche and overused but it was little things really, the new friendships, the acquired knowledge I gained through learning and unlearning. I originally went into this program with an open mindset, desiring to learn more about global food systems as a whole. Little did I know this program would take such a personal turn.


My relationship with food had always been inherently unhealthy. Growing up with a family who viewed food as an emotional coping method rather than fuel, led to a childhood of poptarts and McDonalds fries. With my family, food was not cultural, it was not about traditions, it was about the fleeting moment of joy when consuming. The lack of fruits and vegetables in my life has led me to appreciate them now more than ever. Everytime I bite into a strawberry there is this strong sense of pride, as if each bite distances me that much more from my own notions of obesity. I tell you this not to emphasize a flaw in my family but a generational cycle that I am constantly working to break in my own life. I am hopeful about my current habits and my future health. Now that you know my personal journey with food you will better understand my research on generational cycles of obesity. 


This program was an introspective journey about my personal food behaviour. I will continue my research into how inherited family trauma shapes who we are. Specifically how that inherited pain has manifested into the unhealthy coping method of using food to fill voids.. I will interview my family members about their relationship to food and what has brought them to this stage of their life. I will use this information to break the cycle for myself and my future daughter. I will shake myself of complacency, as I don’t want to be chained to a cycle that keeps me from walking in my purpose. The research I collect will manifest as a letter to my future daughter outlining our family’s connection to unhealthy food and how I am breaking the cycle for her.


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