Living with Diabetes in College: Charles

For young adults living with diabetes, preparing for college can be a difficult time. Managing diabetes while trying to make sense of a new world, social network and expectations can be especially challenging. You’re not alone! There are many resources in place to help support this transition.

The following are stories shared by College Diabetes Network (CDN) Students, involved in CDN’s Student Advisory Committee (SAC), about their experiences heading off to college, and navigating life on campus, with diabetes.

The College Diabetes Network provides programs for young adults with diabetes to help make their college experience safer and more successful. The American Diabetes Association is working with CDN to help further this goal.

Name and Age: Charles, 21charlies CDN

School: Ohio University, Athens Campus, Class of 2017

When I was diagnosed at 14 years old, my world turned upside down. At the time, I thought I was going to enlist in the Marine Corps directly out of high school. Type 1 diabetes had other plans for me.

After I had accepted I would be attending college after high school, I had a good idea of where I wanted to go. Ohio University was only a 20-minute commute from home, had the only osteopathic medical school in the state, and it even had a Diabetes Institute where research scientists, clinicians, educators and students met to improve the quality of life for those affected by diabetes. It was truly the perfect school for me.

Because the campus was so perfectly suited to me, I didn’t look too deeply into their medical accommodations or health services for students. My doctor’s office is less than a three-minute drive from campus, which is a huge advantage. Everything I needed for college, for life with type 1 in general, was close at hand. This made my transition into college relatively simple—dare I say easy. I know others aren’t as lucky. But the real transition for me was how I interacted with my diabetes.

Type 1 can be straining on a person, and some may even feel ashamed by it. But please trust me when I say that telling someone about your condition is one of the best things you can do. This may not be the easiest thing for everyone to do. Talking about it is a relief in its own right. Once you can “own” your diabetes, then there is nothing it can throw at you that you can’t overcome—but that first requires you to embrace it and understand how it can affect your life. Inform the people around you so they can help you own it.

I make every effort to coexist with my disease rather than to fight it, and that requires the people closest to me to have a deep understanding of my diabetes and what to do in the event of a crisis. You never have to go it alone!

In my hometown of Glouster, I know of three other people with type 1 diabetes. Two of them went to the same high school as I did. You could say that outside of diabetes camp, which I attended in the summer, my interactions with other people with type 1 were nearly non-existent. This changed in my sophomore year of college, when my doctor and some of the nutrition faculty approached me about starting a club for people with diabetes.

The club would go on to become the Ohio University chapter of the College Diabetes Network. Helping to co-found this group has had a profound impact on me. I’ve connected with leaders in the diabetes sector, which has really made me reevaluate how I want to continue into my career. I want to work toward better treatment methods and the ever-elusive cure, but I also want to work outside the traditional realm of medicine. I want to support my peers to find the best course of treatment rather than dictating what that means. I want to treat the people and not just the disease. I know what it’s like to be on the patient side of health care; it’s important to make it more personal.

Ever since joining CDN, I’ve become the “diabetes guy” on campus. In helping to found our chapter, I made contacts in our Diabetes Institute, our medical school and our local diabetes programs. I was never afraid of talking about my diabetes before entering college, but in working with CDN along with other organizations, I became a self-proclaimed expert in telling people about it. My friends and coworkers could probably tell you more about type 1 diabetes than your typical person, based on the amount of information I pass on to them.

If you’re heading off to college with diabetes, do not be afraid to get involved! You never know who is “touched by diabetes,” and you might be surprised by who is interested in working with you or even just sitting down and having a conversation about diabetes.

Take it from someone who went it alone all four years of high school. You can tackle your diabetes all by yourself, it will never beat you unless you let it. But having people close to you who can help you when you really need it—that can make beating diabetes all the easier.

The College Diabetes Network (CDN) is a 501c3 non-profit organization, whose mission is to use the power of peers, access to resources, and grassroots leadership to fill the gaps experienced by young adults with diabetes and make their college experience safer and more successful. CDN’s vision is to empower young adults with diabetes to thrive in all of their personal, healthcare, and scholastic endeavors. CDN has over 80 campuses with 60+ affiliated chapters. Sign-up for more information here.

Diabetes Forecast magazine and the College Diabetes Network recently published a “Thrive Guide for Young Adults” with tips for doing college with diabetes. Visit and for more information.

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10 Responses to Living with Diabetes in College: Charles

  1. Pingback: Living with Diabetes in College: Charles | Gregg's Diabetes

  2. Pingback: Living with Diabetes in College: Charles | My Diabetes Buddy

  3. Kay says:

    Inspirational, love your writing style. The closing sentence was perfect and stood out. It is hard for people without diabetes to understand the difficulties of it unless they are affected by a struggling friend or family member. It’s amazing that you cofounded the Ohio University chapter of the College Diabetes Network (I never knew that). Keep up the hard work, this was a great read.

  4. Amy says:

    I am just learning about CDN. I am an Ohio U Alumni and my daughter has Type 1 Diabetes. She is a junior in HS this year. I am glad to learn about these groups supporting each other in college. Thanks for stepping up to start a group!

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  7. Leighel Webb says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article! My son is a junior in High School and has been a type 1 diabetic since the age of 12. He tells me that he wants to attend OU when he graduates. I am trying to convince him to stay home and attend community college for a couple years then transfer as I am worried about the challenges he will face with diabetes and being away at college. Good read and I will be sure to share this with him! Thank you!

  8. Nalini kidambi says:

    Thank you very much for sharing your story. I am writing to you from India and my daughter 19, was diagnosed at 12. diabetes hasn’t stopped her ever….. She just landed in Boston yday to attend college in The US. While we are very proud and happy for her, we are concerned as to how she will handle everything on her own. Firstly the transition, winter, nee college, New friends, academics, food requirements….. the list goes on. we have introduced her to CDN and hoping she Will stay in touch with them and take support. She has just been allotted her room that she will be sharing abother student. wondering as to what is the best way to inform and educate the room mate

  9. Barri Simpson says:

    Yeah for Charles for starting this club at MY alma mater – Ohio University! I am not a diabetic, but my 20 year old college son is. He attends the University of South Carolina but he does not want to be surrounded by other diabetics and would never get involved with CDN unfortunately, but that is the way he handles it, we have to appreciate how he feels and honor it. He does well handling college and continuing to lower his A1C while in college and maintaining Deans List status…we are very proud! Good luck Charles and GO BOBCATS!! 🙂

  10. Patty says:

    My son doesn’t attend OU, but works a job (12 hr. Shifts) with Type 1 diabetes and he was diagnosed at the age of 12, he also was one of very few that has diabetes at the same home school of yours. He didn’t know how to tell ppl or even he even felt comfortable of telling other classmates about his condition. It was tough for him, we(family) tried to explain that there wasn’t anything wrong with him and we needed to educate others. (Know what to do if he would need them in a crisis). The article and what you are doing is amazing Charles, keep up the good work and please email me if you would need any help with anything. Stay Strong Young Man!

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