These days, it’s en vogue to identify ourselves based on our gustatory predilections—epicurean or ascetic, omnivore or vegan, oenophile or teetotaler. But what if your very sense of home and country was intertwined with your meals? Voice of America recalls one of the most popular stories from the past year, which explored this intrinsic ties between international students and the cuisines from their home countries.

Take Javaria Khan, who struggled to accept the “bland, mild taste of pastas, pizzas and sandwiches” with memories of the flavorful and spicy food of South East Asia fresh on her palate. With food preparation concerns related to her faith in Islam, she found herself further limited in the Massachusetts town of South Hadley, where diversity in Asian cuisine is hard to come by. And so she sought to reclaim some of her favorite flavors on a trip out to Jackson Heights in New York City, which proved to be everything she had hoped for. Still, she realized that the long-term reality would be “sacrificing food in order to get a good education.”

This story echoes the experience of nearly all international students who find that “getting access to a piece of home, like native food, can help ease the feeling of dislocation, but it doesn’t answer the questions.”

[via Voice of America]