The “not going back to school blues” hit me just when I thought they would. Don’t get me wrong I’m so excited for this next chapter in my life, but it feels awfully strange not running around and packing to go back to school this week.
It seems like yesterday that I was a junior beginning my blogging journey as a gluten-free college student, due to there not being any blogs that targeted this population. Now three years later, there are much more college bloggers on the internet and great resources for college students (or perspective college students), parents, and university staff, thanks to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.
The other day I met an incoming freshman who will be attending the U of S. I couldn’t stop smiling and felt so much excitement for her for so many reasons:
1) I’m sightly obsessed with my school
2) College is an amazing journey
3) There are so many wonderful opportunities
Many feelings that come with starting a new journey at a new school; some individuals are ecstatic, some are scared out of their minds, some are curious, and some are eager. I can still remember my inaugural trip up to school. One minute I was so excited to meet new people, and the next I was scared out of my mind. Whatever your feelings are, they are normal and acceptable. Everyone transitions at a different pace. For myself, it took me a month to get acclimated and not feel homesick. First word to the wise: Give yourself time. Don’t rush to conclusions that you chose the wrong school or college major. Embrace the ups and downs.
As I look back on my undergrad experience and graduate experience they are extremely different for a number of reasons. In my undergrad career I was trying to navigate the college experience while also being sick, especially during my freshman year. I really struggled to balance feeling like a “normal” college freshman, and doing what I wanted to do/ needed in the moment. I also didn’t know how to live with my illness, rather, I let my condition control many of my actions and decisions. Second word to the wise: Whether you have just been diagnosed with celiac / gluten-sensitivity or you are a veteran, don’t let your condition hold you back. Have safe limits, but don’t miss out on an opportunity because you don’t think it is possible. There are so many people on college campuses who want to help. Scout them out! The worst that can happen is it’s not feasible. However, at least you tried. If there is an opportunity you want to take advantage of, GO! If your friends don’t want to, GO by yourself. You might even meet a new friend. I can’t stress enough, Be YOU & Do YOU. An opportunity like the one presented may never come across again. In graduate school I finally learned to not let my conditions defined my actions. It’s the best feeling in the world knowing I went “balls to the wall” and left my college experience with no regrets.
Food is our medicine. Celiac is the only autoimmune disease that is treat and improved with food, not medicine. Embrace this, use this to keep your mind positive. You might not be able to have late night pizza with friends, but I promise you, it’s not the end of the world, and people will not hate you for refusing. Heck, if they are your friend they will accept you for YOU. You never know some of them might even be your biggest allies. Fun Fact: My friends prefer Snyder’s Gluten-free pretzels! Third word to the wise: Bring food where ever you go. I always had a safe snack in my bag. After all, you never know how long your library study session will be! Bring gluten-free foods that you know gluten-eaters love and share with your new friends. Food is our medicine, but the type of food we eat doesn’t define us.
In my college career I was not only blessed to walk away with individuals who I believe will be life long friends, but I also left with a group of individuals who were allies, and professionals who became my mentors. Many of them knew I had a handful of medical issues, but they got to know me for Candice. Not Candice the girl with gluten sensitivity, multiple food allergies and CRPS. These relationships not only helped me grow personally and professionally, but their examples and acts have made me a better person. Fourth word to the wise: Find a mentor and a few allies. My allies always helped me when I was having a rough time. Not many roommates can say they bonded in the emergency room because of a CRPS flare. My allies also get excited when they find foods I can safely eat. Mentors are good to have; maybe it’s an upperclassmen, a professor, counselor or academic advisor.
Going to college was the first time I was not involved in organized sports. I made it my mission to stay active and get involved with clubs, and service opportunities. As a freshman, I was secretly scared of gaining the freshman 15 (A worry I now know I shouldn’t have been concerned about) and wanted to stay active and healthy so doctors didn’t blame my unhealthy lifestyle on why I wasn’t feeling well. This started of my love-affair with the gym. Over the years, I have really transformed, gotten mentally and physically stronger, and learned that strong girls are the prettiest ( Girls, don’t be intimidated by the weights, there is no such thing as the ‘girls’ and boys’ side of the gym’, despite popular belief). Immersing myself in service provided me with the most life-giving experiences. They often enhanced my classroom knowledge. I learned some of the greatest life lessons when serving others. Fifth word to the wise: Get involved. If you feel in your heart you want to do something, do it! Even if you have never done it before, try it. College is the time of new beginnings!
Well that’s a wrap!, It’s the end of the gluten-free in college chapter on Embrace G-Free. While I am happy to talk to any college students or perspective college students, I will no longer be writing about this topic on my blog (I’ll leave that job to Casey the College Celiac, College Student with Celiac, and Adventures of a G-Free Bennie, – Comment below for more of your favorites)
It’s been a roller coaster of ride full of so many joys, new recipes and great experiences. Good luck to all you college freshies. You are in for the ride of your life.