Heading off to college can be stressful – between packing, saying goodbyes to loved ones at home, and preparing for a new school year. This stress, unfortunately, only multiplies for students with food allergies. For me, leaving mom’s kitchen behind meant entering a realm of additional uncertainty and anxiety. However, if you can learn how to master navigating the caf safely, everything else at college will seem so much easier and more enjoyable! Here are some tips to live your university years to the fullest:
Be a Yes-man
This tip is applicable each year, but especially freshman year. Everyone is more motivated and invigorated at the beginning of the school year – take advantage of that childlike excitement and say yes to every opportunity. Saying yes to lunch with a classmate, the new club on campus, or a party invitation could lead to finding your people or niche on campus. You might even find a food allergy support system this way!
At most schools, outdoor courtyards and quads are the places to be on a nice fall day. Head outside between classes to play frisbee, read a book, or picnic. With the warm sun on your back, the last thing you’ll be is worried about your food allergies. These little moments with new or old friends alike make going back to school so much more bearable.
Keep it Simple
Whether you’ll be living in a dorm room, an apartment, or a house, you’ll probably have much less space at college than at home. When packing for school, make sure you’re only bringing what you need. Practice minimalism! It’ll be formative for you, AND your roommate will thank you (mine did!).
Focus on Relationships
The most valuable things you can take away from your four years of college (other than your degree, of course) are your relationships. My friends, classmates, and sorority sisters have been my biggest supporters throughout all the challenges that college brings. Look to form these relationships as soon as you arrive on campus – this means keeping an open mind and not being afraid to open up to new people!
Forming relationships is especially important for students with food allergies. Having friends who are understanding and patient have made eating in dining halls so much easier for me. Forming relationships with the dining services staff, however, has been even more beneficial. Being able to text the caf’s manager when I have a question or request has ensured my safety and sanity SO many times. As soon as you set foot on campus in the fall, get in touch with dining services to start building those relationships.
One of the most wonderful things about college is the freedom it brings. This freedom can be a slippery slope, so be mindful. In order to succeed in your classes, you’ll need to budget your free time and set aside some hours to get work done. You also have the opportunity to join so many new organizations – get those applications in as soon as possible so that you can get involved right off the bat! Proactivity is especially important when it comes to dining with food allergies. If you’re not sure that a dish is safe, ask the staff or use your Nima! It’s better to take a few extra minutes of investigation than to take a chance and get sick.
College is a time to explore who you are and be creative. Exercise creativity in your research papers, your dorm decorations, and even your meals on campus. The dining halls might not have the same meals your parents cooked at home, and the options may be even more obscure for students with dietary restrictions. Learn how to work with what you’re offered and don’t be afraid to try new dishes or combinations. I never knew I liked tofu or edamame before coming to college – now that those are some of my most nutritious options, I’ve become an Asian salad and stir fry expert. Who would have guessed?
From new classes to opportunities for creativity, there are so many reasons to be excited to go away to college! Considering all the refreshing prospects a new school year brings, food allergies shouldn’t have to be a major stressor or distraction for anyone. If you pack a good attitude, along with all your clothes and bedding (and follow these tips!), you’re sure to have a record year.
My name is Lizzie Kaczorowski and I’m heading into my senior year at Villanova University. This May, I’ll graduate with degrees in Marketing, International Business, and Spanish and will hopefully be off to California (or another country!) to work in Marketing. I’ve found my Nima to be SO helpful when dining off campus, especially since the area surrounding Villanova has such great restaurants that students frequent. Learning what is safe to eat out has been an eye-opening experience for me that wouldn’t have been possible without my Nima.