One of the best parts of going to school is that you will have the opportunity to make lots of new friends. However, with any situation of making new friends, breaking the ice about your allergies can be difficult. Below are my top 3 tips to how to best manage going out with new friends while being safe with your allergies.
- Tell them in advance
It is always a lot easier for both yourself and your friends to talk about your food allergies in advance of going out. It can be a fun fact you bring up about yourself when meeting people for the first time. I always find it easiest to introduce when I’m going out to eat with people. Usually if they ask what I want I’ll say, “Anything without nuts because I’m allergic to them!” I try to keep it casual and not make a big deal about it because I don’t want to make anybody afraid to eat with me.
- Come up with activities that don’t involve food
It’s always a good plan to have some ideas of activities to do with your friends when you go out that doesn’t involve food. Look up different things to do in the new city or town. For most people, the city will probably be quite new to them so exploring the place you will be living for the next little while is always a fun idea!
- Find some places that are safe for you to eat
A lot of the time when going out, people will default to food-related activities. Make sure you have restaurant options that you know are safe for you to eat at. That way when you say that you have an allergy you can offer a list of choices for your new friends to choose from. This helps makes accommodating your allergy easier for others and ensures you will be comfortable when eating out as well.
Making new friends can be difficult – especially when you have a food allergy. It is always best to tell them when you first meet them so everybody is well aware and can ensure that your allergies are accommodated for when you go out! It is also a good idea to let people know where your auto-injector is and how to use it in case of an emergency! If you have any other tips when going out with new friends, I’d love to hear about it in a comment below!
– Lindsay S.
During the first year in university or college, a lot of people will decide to live in residence. This is a great way to make friends and really get integrated and feel at home on your campus. When living in residence with food allergies, there comes a set of risks involved as you are living with lots of new people who are likely not used to living with someone with food allergies. Here are my top 3 tips for how you can eat and live safely in residence with food allergies.
- Let your residence supervisor know
This is something you should try to do in advance or on your first day of moving into residence. Your residence supervisor is usually an upper year student who lives on your floor and is responsible for the well-being of all of the students. They will typically run a meeting on your first day for everyone on the floor to introduce themselves and get to know each other. I spoke with my supervisor in advance of this meeting and she was able to make an announcement that there was somebody with an allergy to nuts on the floor and to try and keep the floor as nut-free as possible. I found this really helpful so that I didn’t have to go around telling people individually and I knew that if I was ever in trouble my supervisor would be aware of my food allergy and be able to help.
- Keep food in your room
A great way to eat safely when in residence is to keep your own stash of food in your room. Lots of people will bring in a mini fridge so that you can keep perishable items stocked up and then have a bin or two for dry goods. I usually kept all of my breakfast supplies on hand so that I wouldn’t have to rush to a cafeteria before going to class. I also had snacks on hand so that if I was in my room studying or hanging out with friends, I would have something to eat. This also guarantees that you always have food around that you know is safe for you to eat.
- Be careful of the common room
A lot of residences will have common rooms where there are typically basic kitchen appliances like a toaster, microwave, coffee pot, sink, etc. Since you can never guarantee what others have made in the common room, it is always a good idea to be very careful when going in there. I usually went in and did a quick scan of what was on the counter and in the sink before bringing any of my food in to cook. Since my floor had been advised of my food allergies, it was very rare that there were any products or dirty dishes with my allergen present. However, there is always a risk involved with using a common space. I always used my own cutlery and dishes and washed everything carefully with soap.
Living in residence is such a fun experience that I would highly recommend it to everyone. If you have any other tips when eating in residence, I’d love to hear about it in a comment below!
– Lindsay S.
Regardless of whether you are living on campus or off campus while away at university or college, a lot of your time will be spent on campus. Whether its picking up a snack between classes or grabbing dinner with friends, it is important to know where you are safe to eat on campus.
- Navigate the cafeterias
Something to spend your first couple of weeks doing is to get to know what your different food options are on campus. Most schools will have a few main cafeterias along with maybe a restaurant, snack areas or chain food suppliers. Spend some of your time getting to know where your food options are and what each of them serve. This will help you to determine where you can eat safely and what places have the types of food you like.
- Talk to the staff
The hospitality staff at your school will be the best people to help you eat safely on campus. They are the ones who know all about how food allergens are managed on campus and how you can best go about eating safely. Talk to the people who actually work in the cafeterias – usually the chefs and food preparation staff will have no problem talking to you and discussing what foods are safe for you to eat. If ingredients are not posted, the staff should be able to show you ingredient lists so you can know exactly what you are eating.
- Be adventurous
I found that growing up with food allergies led to me being a very plain eater. I rarely tried foods that were outside of my comfort zone as I had been so used to eating a restricted diet. When going away to school, I decided it was a good time to try some new foods – as long as I knew they were safe. After speaking to the hospitality staff and chefs at the cafeterias, I found that there were lots of new things that I could try that they could ensure me were allergen safe. This was a great way to try new foods in a safe environment. Just always make sure you have talked to staff, double checked ingredients, have an auto-injector nearby (just in case), and have informed those eating with you that you are trying something new.
Eating on campus will become a staple while you are away at school so it is important to know your options and know how to eat safely! If you have any other tips when eating on campus, I’d love to hear about it in a comment below!
You’ve made it! The decision has been made, your bags have been packed and now it is your first week of school! The first week of school is usually an orientation week where you get to take part in lots of fun activities and get familiar with the layout of campus. Here are my top 3 tips for getting through your first week of school with your food allergies!
- Talk with your roommate(s) and your floor mates
In your first week, it is important to try and make those who you will be living with aware of your food allergies. If you have a roommate and haven’t communicated with them beforehand it is important to let them know about your allergies and work out what you are comfortable with in terms of managing your allergies in your room and common areas. It is also a good idea to talk to other people who live on your floor as well so they are aware and cognizant of your allergies.
- Go to the grocery store
Your first week can be overwhelming and very busy. Having limitations on what you can eat and not being familiar with the cafeterias and food options on campus means it is always a good idea to have your own food and snacks on hand. Make a quick trip to a nearby grocery store during your first week so that you always have safe foods on hand and you won’t get hungry!
- Get involved
Usually classes haven’t started during your first week and it is just a time to have fun and meet new people. There are also usually lots of club fairs and promotions of different activities for new students. Take this time to get to know what kind of ways you can get involved on campus whether it’s through sports, clubs, activist groups, etc. There might even be opportunities to work with hospitality services or start your own club – like one for students with food allergies!
Hopefully some of these tips will help you get through your first week of school safely and with lots of fun! If you have any other tips for the first week of school with a food allergy, I’d love to hear about it in a comment below!
– Lindsay S.
The applications are in and the acceptance letters have been sent out. You think that the hardest part is behind you but now it gets even harder as you have to make the big decision of where you are going to go to school! When choosing a school there is lots to think about and even more for those of us who have food allergies! Here are my top 3 tips for choosing what school you will attend with your food allergies in mind.
- What services are offered for students with allergies?
It is important to think about what types of accommodations schools make for their students who have dietary restrictions. Hopefully at this point you have done some solid research during the application process about what each school has to offer. Looking through how allergens are managed in the cafeterias, the availability of speaking to chefs and food staff and ingredient postings can all be important things to consider when choosing your school.
- What are your living options?
Each school has a different way of providing living accommodations for students with food allergies. Some schools will guarantee you a single room or even provide you a room with cooking facilities on-site so that you are able to make your own food. It is also important to find out if the school will require you to pay for a full meal plan if you have allergies or will be cooking on your own. Ensuring that you are comfortable in the space that you are living is very important so it is something you should strongly consider when choosing what school to attend.
- Choose a school that is the right fit
Ultimately, I think it is important that you are choosing a school that is the right fit for you in terms of the program, the feel of the campus and what your goals are. I have always lived by the motto that I do not let my food allergies define me – therefore I think it is important to keep your food allergies at the forefront of your mind but not let your allergies dictate where you go to school. Universities and colleges are becoming much more aware and proactive about accommodating their students with allergies so if you find a school that you think is the one there is always a way to make your allergies work as well!
Good luck with the decision making! If you have any other tips about decision making on college or university acceptance, I’d love to hear about it in a comment below!
– Lindsay S.
Applying to university/college is a really exciting time but there are lots of decisions to be made! For someone with food allergies there is an added component of choosing what schools to apply to with your allergies in mind. Below are my top 3 tips for things to consider when applying to schools!
- Do your research!
This is an important tip not only when it comes to your allergies but also to learn about the program and the school. You can find lots of information on school websites – look for a section on their hospitality services or do a quick search on food allergies. There are also opportunities to speak to representatives from schools by taking a school tour or going to a university/college fair. Speaking to hospitality staff and management in person is probably your best bet to get a good idea of how your allergies can be managed.
- Make it clear on your application
Although it likely will not come up until you have decided on a school and are applying for residence or other housing, it is important to make it clear on your application that you have life threatening food allergies. Usually there are accommodations that can be made, such as getting a single room, getting a room with cooking facilities, etc. If there isn’t a specific section or area for listing your allergies contact somebody from the school and ask them how you can let the school know.
- Close to home or across the country?
For the majority of students going to school, this will be the first time they have lived away from home. Deciding how far away from your home you want to be is something to really think about – especially if you have allergies! Having your parents close by to bring you some safe meals now and then or being able to go home and go grocery shopping might be something that is important to you. Or you might feel really independent and confident in your abilities to manage your allergies on your own and think that going to school a bit farther away will help continue to foster your independence.
Best of luck with applications! If you have any other tips when applying to college or university, I’d love to hear about it in a comment below!
– Lindsay S.