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.
School: St. Norbert College (De Pere, Wisc.), Class of 2016
After already living with type 1 diabetes for 12 years, going off to school was like being diagnosed all over again. As I progressed in my academic career, I realized taking care of diabetes on my own was much more demanding than it had ever been before.
The understanding and support I had at home suddenly disappeared; I was fighting diabetes on my own for the first time. With comments like, “I wish I had that because then I’d be skinny like you,” and “don’t give your shots around me,” I realized fairly quickly that it was my responsibility to educate and inform the people around me, so I could create the support that I really needed. I never thought to reach out to my health care providers because they were hours away.
A huge part of being a young adult with diabetes is having a support system. With that, the difficult days just seem to be more manageable.
It was hard to get people to show an interest in what I had to say about diabetes. This is one thing I would like to change about campuses and communities—not just for diabetes, but for all chronic illnesses. There are battles going on behind closed doors a majority of us will never even realize. I tried desperately to move students toward understanding, but after a while, I knew it would take much more than me.
I decided to create a CDN chapter at my school when the director of student health services offered me the opportunity. I’ve been very involved with CDN since then and attended the last CDN Student Retreat in Maine with many other chapter leaders from across the country. The most prominent takeaway from this experience was the stories I heard and the people I met. Not only did we all share the same burden of diabetes, but we also shared a passion and a drive to inspire and advocate.
What do I wish I knew about managing diabetes before college? Well, first off, I didn’t realize how much different I would feel from the other students. People didn’t want me giving insulin injections around them, or talking about my diabetes too much. I didn’t realize managing my diabetes would complicate my social life, particularly at parties and get-togethers.
I knew going into college that my diabetes was going to be difficult to manage, but I wish I would have known that I didn’t have to do it alone.
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 diabetesforecast.org and diabetes.org for more information.