College is hard. It’s hard for a normal student. Balancing classes, studying, friendships, a social life, and exercise can be a challenging endeavor for even the most successful scholar. Then throw in diabetes. For us who are “lucky” to have this disease, we have one more tedious thing to add to the mix.
I was diagnosed with type one diabetes (T1D) in November of 2013, 9 months before I shipped off for my freshman year at my dream school, the University of Georgia (UGA). While my diagnosis and first months of treatment went well, I think it’s safe to say I’m still learning how to live successfully with T1D. T1D in many respects is an experiential disease. We get better at managing it the longer we have it.
However, as I shipped off to college, I really had no idea what to expect. Through my first two and a half years, I’ve learned my fair share of lessons. I want to share them with other students getting ready to head to campus.
Talk to your friends and roommates about your diabetes:
I remember the first day I moved into my room in Brumby Hall (one of the freshmen dorms at UGA). Soon I was meeting my new hall-mates, the people I would experience my freshman year with. Living with strangers is a new adventure, but it also can be dangerous. You’re now away from your parents, and those around you are more than likely uneducated on the topic of T1D. For those closest to you, I would give them a run-through about your diabetes, and what to do if an emergency were to happen.
To avoid mistakes and to increase the understanding of your situation, walk them through what to do if you were to go low, pass out, or have complications. Friends should know how to check your blood sugar, administer a Glucagon, and when to call campus police or emergency services if needed.
Educate your friends. It could save your life.
Lows are a part of T1D. College brings all sorts of new challenges that can send your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride. From walking around a large campus, to the stresses that come with school work, your blood sugars can be affected.
Keeping snacks around is something that comes naturally to a T1D, but until you get used to the ebbs and flows of college, keep a few extra around. Whether that means having a Gatorade in your backpack, or bringing some crackers into your first test, make sure that you’re ready to fight off the inevitable lows.
Dining Hall Jitters- Be Who You Are!:
As anyone will tell you that knows me, I’m not a quiet person. I love to talk, especially to new people. However, once I got to college, I felt anxiety about meeting new people, specifically in dining halls.
You sit down with someone brand new, introduce yourself, and then draw blood from your finger and stab yourself in the stomach. Not the first impression I wanted to make. For a long time I was worried about first impressions with my T1D. I wasn’t ashamed of it or who I was, but I was still worried that people wouldn’t accept me. The stigma that goes with T1D is common, and from those who are ill-informed, it can lead to a lot of judgement.
Soon enough, I got the nerve to talk to people about my disease. I overcame my struggle, partially because of a new understanding of who I was, and partially because of the wonderful reactions people gave me. People were not judgmental, they were curious! I realized that I could use my personality as a light into the world of T1D. I could help educate people, and make this world a better and more informed place.
For those who are anxious about opening up about their T1D-
- You’re not worse off because of this unfortunate circumstance that fell upon you. In fact, you’re stronger!
- You have an incredible chance to educate others on your struggles, and how you’ve overcome them. You can advocate on the behalf of millions worldwide. All you have to do is be yourself, and be honest with those around you. If someone doesn’t have the compassion or understanding to sympathize with your situation, they probably aren’t someone you wanted to be friends with anyway.
As cliché as it sounds, the Freshman 15 is real. Dining hall food is generally good on my campus, you’ll be eating as you stay up late to study for your big exams, and time for exercise is hard to come by. Making sure you stay active is a good way to ensure you to remain healthy and keep your blog sugar in check.
Find the thing that you love to do. Whether that be playing a game of pickup basketball with your friends, lifting in the gym, or going for a run, there are plenty of ways to get going several times a week. While it can often be hard to get up the motivation to do so, it’s super important. Find a friend to exercise with and help keep each other accountable.
Be sure you have an energy drink or a snack around just in case you go low during your workout.
There will be days you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world regarding school and T1D. Other days you’ll be frustrated and cranky. This is completely normal. Just keep fighting!
Editor’s Note: Did you know CDN has Off to College Booklets for parents/caregivers and students. They cover everything from what to pack to how to talk to your roommate about T1D to managing T1D on campus. Check out a preview of the parent one here and the student booklet here. You can request you copy by filling out this form.
For more information about being diagnosed as a young adult, check out our new guide: "You've Got This: A Guide for Young Adults Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes", and the accompanying video series.