Food has always been a great interest of mine simply because it represents one thing that everyone on this planet has in common: the basic requirement to eat in order to live. Thus it always has been/is/will be one of the few characteristics of life that connects us all no matter the situation.
Food also plays a big role in my own life due to my passion for cooking that came to the surface at a young age. My father (a man true to his stomach) knew all too well how to make the most of this, as my mum is not the best of cooks (this doesn’t mean I love her any less!) and before long I was given free-rein to cook up crazy concoctions in the kitchen.
The time then came to choose what undergraduate degree to apply for and I was stuck between applying for culinary school or a science-related degree as I very much enjoyed the subject in school. I came to a compromise and thought I’d start with nutrition, which I thought would give me an interesting twist on my approach to cooking when I would go for culinary training later on.
Studying at King’s College in London, I sure was given a solid scientific base, but given my innate global perspective I found it difficult to fully relate to the subject until Patricia Mucavele from the School Food Trust came in to teach a few classes on public health nutrition in my final year. This was it. It was like a real-life game of connect-the-dots between the different sectors and their relation to food on a global scale. There was so much to the field, it almost seemed never-ending and with plenty of opportunities to grow and diversify – which ticks all the right boxes for me in terms of a career! This brief encounter with the field later lead me to take up a master’s course in public health nutrition at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
My time studying at the School showed me that there was so so so much more to the field than I ever could have dreamed up! At times, I found this fact overwhelming but the beautifully international environment reminded me that there is space for everybody in public health (let alone public health nutrition!) and everyone finds his/her place in the end.
Coming to the end of my masters, the question ringing louder than ever in my head was ‘where do I want to go from here?’ I know that now more than ever is not the time to pick the place, given the global circumstances. It would be much wiser to let the place pick you. But I’ve never been one to ignore my instincts and I knew exactly where they were taking me – Barcelona.
Let me rewind the story here a little and explain my connection to that city as I’m not originally from there. I’m what some would call a Third Culture Kid, being Palestinian-Greek with English as my mother tongue. Sounds complicated? Well, it definitely is. Born with an identity crisis in hand and growing up between worlds, I never really felt at home anywhere – not even in Athens where I’ve spent the majority of my life so far. That was until I took a short trip to Barcelona in 2008 and right upon landing I had the strangest sense of familiarity that I didn’t quite understand at first but later realised it was the sensation of having found home (or the closest I’ve ever been to it)!
Returning to my undergraduate studies in the UK a week later, I couldn’t fight this feeling that there was more for me to discover in that city and made a conscious decision to move there after graduating in 2009 to take a year out and tune into that voice beckoning inside me. To cut a long story short, my time there confirmed my initial feelings of having found my home but I ended up leaving to do my master’s degree in London. Fast-forward to 2012 and I’m back in Barcelona…