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University: The Newest Frontier on the Horizon

You've navigated the halls of high school, tricky social situations, and sports teams.  You're an expert at scoping out a clean lunch table and reading a label.  University is an exciting time; you may be on your own for the first time, you're taking steps towards a future in your chosen career, and you're looking forward to what are commonly referred to as some of the most formative years of your life.  Yes, all of those things are true, but there is one thing to note: the guide rails are off now.  Here are some tips and tricks to keep you at the top of your game.  

 1.  Find the convenience store on campus

Food halls, while convenient and cheap for most students, are not typically allergy-friendly zones.  You may be able to find one that can cater to your needs, but it is always a good idea to find a source of food that is packaged and labelled.  Protein bars, fresh fruits and vegetables, and sealed drinks that you can add your own creamer or extras to will give you control over what you're consuming.  And you won't be the only kid at the table with nothing to eat at lunch. 

Psst! Are you looking for your new favorite snack?  Libre Naturals has two delicious varieties of protein bars that will keep you fueled through your classes, your workout, and everything in between!  Carefully crafted from the best ingredients, you can be sure that we've taken care of all of the worrying for you.  Libre Naturals products are all gluten-free, free of the top ten+ food allergens, Kosher, plant-based, and free of any colors, preservatives and artificial flavors.  The protein bars come in two flavors: vanilla cinnamon and chocolate cacao!  

2.  Alcohol Isn't Required to List Ingredients

You may be at the age (this is for our Canadian university students who are of legal drinking age) when going to a party (or a "shin-dig" as the kids are calling them these days), it's all too normal to see red cups and a table full of questionable alcohol that is being shared.  If you are going to a party, bring your own, individually sealed drinks that can be washed before opening.  That way, you can keep your drinks safe and control your intake in a responsible way!  Pro tip: keep some safe, delicious snacks in your room to make sure that you have something to eat after an evening out! 

3.  Make Friends That You Can Trust

Just as you did when you were a kid, you can tell if someone doesn't vibe with you and your allergies right away.  The wheat separates itself from the chaff very quickly in a college setting.  Finding a group - whether it's made up of your friends from high school, or new ones- will provide you with a great safety net.  Friends can be buffers between you and your allergens if you're eating in public, a support system if you're struggling, and also a group that will stand up for you on the chance that someone attempts to prank you or make you feel lesser for being allergic.  

4.  Be Aware That You Aren't In The Classroom Anymore

Lecture halls are enormous, and chances are that you will be travelling from hall to hall during the day.  There are often rules that ask you not to eat or drink during lectures, but frankly, those signs often get ignored.  If you would feel safer, bring disinfectant wipes.  You may need to figure out where the coffee drinkers and snack-eaters sit if you need to avoid them.  There is always a period of about two weeks where it's the wild west- eventually everyone will settle into a usual spot.  You may need to sit in the front row near the TA if it's a crowded lecture.  Your best Hermione Granger impression isn't necessary. 

5.  Dating With Food Allergies Will be Complicated

Dating in the 21st century can be daunting.  Whether you're on dating apps, meeting people the old-fashioned way, or throwing pennies into a well, there are a few things to know:

  • Respect is paramount.  Your safety and your comfort in a relationship are non-negotiables
  • Trust your gut: if you're seeing red flags or doubt whether someone really has given up peanut butter cups like they promised to, you're better off without that stress
  • It will take time to find the right person for you!  You aren't just trusting someone with your heart, you're trusting them with your safety as well.  

Have the difficult conversations.  If you need to be sure that the person that you're seeing isn't kissing other people who may be eating your allergens, then please have the conversation about exclusivity early on (it's not dissimilar to the talks you've had with your dates during the pandemic regarding safety!). 

6.   Plan Ahead 

The biggest piece of advice I have on this front is this: learn to cook!  Your stomach and your wallet will thank you.  If you have the means to do so, cooking your own food has so many benefits.  It is cheaper than buying food at the dining hall or ordering in every night, you won't be in a nutrient deficit because you're not surviving on ramen noodles, and you can control everything that goes into your food.  Feeding yourself properly will help you to do well in your studies and will go a long way to help you keep your mental health in good order. 

7. Use Your Resources

University can feel like a lonely place, especially if you are part of a large faculty and in an unfamiliar city.  Most schools include counselling and support groups/numbers along with your student fees; they are there for you to use if you feel like you're struggling. Check out the boards in common areas for club opportunities, recreational sports, and other hobbies that you may be interested in.  

There you have it!  Seven of the most common things to address when you're starting college.  Can you think of anything else?  Let us know below! 





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