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: Boston College, Class of 2016
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a young age. Although my college transition didn’t have too many obstacles, for others it may present many difficult changes and intimidating environments. For students living with type 1 diabetes, many of these experiences hold unique consequences, consequences other students may not be able to relate to. Diabetes management during finals, food intake, alcohol consumption are just some of the examples we have to consider.
I applied exclusively to colleges close to home, as I wanted to stay in Boston and continue my care at the Joslin Diabetes Center. This way, I figured I would have easy access to all the medical resources I might need while living at college.
I also had a very strong support group. My mother and endocrinologist were very helpful, as they made sure I was fully stocked with everything I needed at school on a consistent basis. The Dexcom with Bluetooth and Share changed my life; I consistently feel comfortable about my blood glucose monitoring wherever I am.
In the past I’ve had the privilege of working with numerous organizations including the Association, JDRF, Camp Joslin and Beyond Type 1. I’ve had numerous roles, ranging from blogging and public speaking, to fundraising and leadership. And now serving as CDN chapter leader, I look forward to raising more awareness about this disease.
The CDN is a unique opportunity to link with the type 1 community on campus and to further increase campus awareness about diabetes. It’s incredible to have a community on campus with which you can discuss the trials of college, whether they are academic, personal or medical. My goal is to fuse the type 1 diabetes community with the larger type 2 community so people can be educated more about diabetes and how it affects us all.
If you live with diabetes or any other chronic condition, I would strongly recommend letting your roommates know about it, educating them and getting them involved. In addition to teaching them the basics, I show my roommates and friends everything. I explain where it all should be and how the math all works out. By now my closest friends know the blood glucose-testing and carb-counting drill well. In case of emergencies, they all know where to find and use glucagon kits. Even if I never have an emergency, it’s very important knowledge.
And still, everyone thinks my Dexcom is an iPod. I assure them it doesn’t play music.
I juggle many things on top of diabetes. I play lacrosse at school, which makes life a bit more difficult. Late practices can complicate my sleep schedule and blood sugars, so I do lose sleep on a regular basis. Learning how to balance everything has been difficult, but I’ve managed so far.
Diabetes management and anxiety can take a very significant toll on you — it’s something that needs to be addressed more than it is. Too seldom do we take the time to slow down and recognize that the management of our disease is difficult and extremely stressful. Our whole person, every element of our lives, can be dramatically affected by our relationship with our disease. To effectively manage diabetes, we need to identify how it worries us and how we might combat those concerns, especially in the college environment.
If you’re heading off to college, I would suggest moving slowly into everything new. It’ll be a tremendous experience, but don’t feel like you have to assimilate right away. Just because everyone else participates in some activities, especially those that involve alcohol consumption, doesn’t mean you have to dive in headfirst.
You can do more for yourself and your own well-being by practicing restraint. Finding others who practice the same restraint might help keep your spirits up.
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.