As per popular request, I've gathered up some of my tips for college - everything from moving in to the freshman dorms to learning to cook for one person to finding the group of girlfriends God calls you to.
YOUR QUESTIONS, ANSWERED
How do you budget your groceries each week? I never want to pressure anyone to adopt a vegan lifestyle, nor do I want to make it seem like the perfect way to eat/live, buuuuuut the grocery bill of a healthy vegan diet says it all. On about $30-$40 a week, you can load up your bags with tons of produce (yes, even organic!) and other staples like beans, bread, nut butters, and snacks. Here are some healthy, inexpensive items to always keep on hand:
- rolled/quick cooking/steel-cut oats (I love Bob's Red Mill brand) - good for oatmeal (overnight or hot), baking
- nut butters (peanut, almond, cashew, etc.) (the ingredients should be nothing more than the nut and sea salt) - good for topping said oats, quick PB & J sammies, and mid-day spoonfuls
- bread (whole-grain, whole-wheat, sourdough, etc.) - good for toast, sammies, and the like
- oils (coconut, olive, avocado) - good for cooking
- beans (canned or dried) - good for adding easy protein to meals, buy canned if you don't have a stove
- rice (I prefer brown) - good for pairing with beans to make a complete protein
- bars (I love GoMacro, Larabar, and Square Organics) - good for snacking
- frozen fruits and veggies - good for... everything! also usually less expensive than fresh produce, but still just as nutritious
Should I shop at my local farmers market? Yes yes yes! By doing so, you can support your community and reduce fossil fuels emitted during the shipment process of other store-bought produce, you can buy organic for less than what it's sold in the store oftentimes. Farmers markets can seem pricey at times, so don't hesitate to ask about any deals the farmer(s) might offer.
- I'm relatively new to shopping almost exclusively at farmers markets, so here is an article loaded with tips from The Spruce.
- If YOU have any helpful tips, leave them below!
How do I make friends?/ What if I don't like my roommates? Let me tell you - I struggled with both of these for almost six months. I called my parents crying multiple times a week. For someone as introverted and independent as me, I didn't expect to feel so lonely, but moving away from my parents into a completely new city put those qualities to the test. I refused to leave, so I set out to integrate myself any way I could.
- I found a job in the downtown area working as a cashier/hostess-type-thing at Bliss Cafe SLO.
- I had been involved in a bible study, but another girl and I just didn't feel connected, so we both sought out another group to join and immediately fell in love with the girls we met (thanks, God!).
- I signed up for clubs pertaining to my interests - mostly related to food/sustainability.
- I spent time OUT of my own room. Study in the library or in other common, populated areas on campus. Put your phone away while walking or eating or waiting in line for coffee. Go to the gym with a classmate/new friend and sign up for fitness classes.
- BIGGEST TIP: I let down my "wall". During a phone call with my mom regarding my struggle in finding friends, she told me I come off as intimidating. Part of me was slightly offended, and the other part felt a tingle of confidence in that. Why? Can't tell ya'. Buuuut I can say that I knew my mom was right, and that in order to make friends, I needed to break my intimidation wall and let others in. That meant smiling at passersby, turning to the person next to me in class to start a conversation, and reaching out to the few friends I did have at the time to make plans.
If you're just not feeling a connection with your roommates, I've been there, too. I blindly trusted God in giving me roommates, and He sure did throw quite the mixture of girls together. About 60% of the time, we got along. The other 40% we spent arguing over whose dish belonged to whom, who needed to take the trash out, and how often boys were allowed to spend the night. Each of us had been raised so differently, which hindered our ability to understand another's annoying habits. To learn to get along, or maybe just manage the remainder of the time we had together...
- Use those tips above from the previous question to get out and make friends with those whom you DO find a strong connection.
- Pray for patience and understanding. God didn't put you into a weird roommate situation so that you could light up your anger and frustration at the others.
- Have "roommate meetings" - use this time to discuss different chores around the dorm/apartment, rules about having other friends over, noise limits, etc.
What do I do when homesickness kicks in? (it will) Building off of the previous questions, feelings of homesickness are pretty much inevitable, at least for the first few months. In all honesty, this struggle was probably my hardest, and I didn't seek help for it or open to anyone but my parents about it. Truth is, everyone feels it, and I found that out only after revealing my struggle to my friends. To my surprise, they admitted feeling the exact same way! Many of my tips for overcoming homesickness align with what I've talked about thus far:
- Get connected - seek friendships with like-minded people and spend time with them to take your mind off of missing home.
- You might have to let go of some things. During my freshman year, I was still hanging onto the last couple frayed strings between my recent-at-the-time ex-boyfriend. When I mustered up enough courage to respectfully tell him I needed space, I felt enough freedom and motivation to integrate myself into my new community. This is NOT to say that you need to break up with your current boyfriend - it's just what I needed to do. For you, it could mean FaceTiming your parents/hometown besties less frequently and encouraging yourself to seek out new friends and opportunities.
- If the feelings only become more overwhelming, don't shy away from asking for help. Colleges know that homesickness is a common occurrence (along with other mental/emotional struggles) and strive to provide as much help as possible. Look for on-campus counselors/psychologists (if you're coming to Cal Poly SLO, here's ours), open up to your friends and family. This is part of breaking down your intimidation wall, which I talked about earlier.
- "call home, then go hang out with people. Try your best not to travel home too much as you won't solve the root cause of being lonely. Surround yourself with people at your college - friends or just random people. Like I commented before don't stay hauled up in your room. Hang out in common places- lounge, library, dining hall...just being surrounded by people helps! Also join a new club, it may be scary at first but then you meet people. And do be afraid to tell people you are feeling homesick, they probably are too and would love to go get a coffee with you and talk about it!" - Dana, fellow reader
- "It's normal to feel lonely and homesick during your first year, and it's important to remember that you're not alone. It might look like everyone else is having the best time of their lives and making so many friends (thanks social media), but that's not a reflection of reality. So many freshmen are feeling the same way as you are. Don't keep it bottled up, talk about how you're feeling! And remember it won't last forever, everything gets better over time." - Haleigh, fellow reader
- "I've been out of college for 5 years, but I still live 1000+ miles from home/any of my family members so I deal with homesickness often! One of the things that helps me feel connected to what I'm feeling homesick for is to do FaceTime (usually it's with my mom). Especially if it's during an event like Thanksgiving, birthday meal, etc! Just have them set the phone up like you're sitting at the table with them and join in the conversations :)
Seems lame, but I love doing that with my family when I'm missing them!" - Melissa, So Much Yum
- "Something that stuck with me that I heard early on in college was 'there are no ordinary moments'. Every day is an opportunity to meet a new friend maybe while waiting in line for your lunch, join a club & discover a new passion or your own potential, and an opportunity to make an impact on the world around you! College provides you with so many opportunities through different organizations, your professors, and your peers. Take advantage of them! & if you want to break out of your shell & be who you really want to be that might be different from who you were in high school, college is the time to do it! Just be you & enjoy the ride! :)" - Samantha, fellow reader
- "Went through it this past year because I was a freshman. The best piece of advice by far is to distract yourself by doing things you love!! For instance, I would often go for walks with friends because I have a beautiful campus! Not only would it distract me, but walking and talking helped me get closer with my friends! Finding things you are grateful for is also a big one because it helps you (or at least it helped me) conceptualize reasons why being at school is the best choice when sometimes all I wanted was the comfort of home. I'm most grateful for the puppies that people have all over campus!! When feelings of homesickness were really bad, I would take breaks from social media just because it would trigger the feeling more seeing people from home!! Hope that helps :)" - Natalie, fellow reader
- "... the best thing I did was surround myself with people—whether it was other college students or people in the community. When I was homesick, which was a lot throughout college, I would walk around my local Whole Foods or farmer's market, walk through neighborhoods with families and people of all ages, take a group fitness class, sit by the pool on campus, or take a day trip with friends. All of those things, plus regular (daily) calls with my mom :)" - Emily, My Healthyish Life
Is it hard being vegan in college? I always say "no, of course not!" to this question, but I do remember running into some obstacles. Halfway through my first year, I went from something-like-paleo to vegetarian, and I kicked off my second year by going completely vegan. During my first year, I ate on campus most of the time, but had to adjust to packing my own meals and snacks when I transitioned into my second year.
- FOR THE FRESHMEN: when you go to the cafeteria, find the salad bar! By no means am I saying that all you can eat is salad, but this is likely the place that will offer the most and freshest fruits and vegetables, so load uppppp. Next, find protein - beans, nuts, seeds, tofu. If you can, branch out! Most sandwiches, pasta bowls and breakfast items can be made vegan. Don't hesitate to ask the server!
- FOR THE UPPERCLASSMEN: Learn to pack your own food and meal prep. Make large batches of rice/pasta/etc., beans, and fresh and/or cooked veggies for the week - this makes packing lunch and prepping dinner less stressful and time-consuming.
- Choosing a vegan diet in college can pose a challenge in terms of developing friendships, too. People will ask questions - some will be respectful and others may seem rude and arrogant. First, identify your reason for choosing veganism - ethical reasons, environmental protection, health promotions, etc. - and defend those. Next, understand that not everyone may have been raised with an emphasis on seeing another person's perspective. Some may be farmers who have always raised and milked their own cows, and others may just be insistent for whatever reason on eating meat and dairy. Don't pass judgements on these people for their food choices (just as you wouldn't them to such to you) and don't push veganism on anyone. Doing so can create an awkward environment and give an "I'm-better-than-you" sort of name to the vegan diet.
- Oh, and check out this post from my girl, Emilie!
- Here is another article I found that offers tips on everything from conquering the cafeteria to holding respectful conversations about veganism with others.
What are some tips for dealing with stress? Ahhh, stress. That word has moved up to the top 3 on my vocabulary list. As with many of the topics here, I'm NO expert. I deal with stress almost everyday and I could most definitely utilize some helpful tips myself. However, I have made a few habits that help reduce the powerful hit of the stress wave when I see it coming in the distance:
- Sleeeeeeeeeeeep. Several studies prove that the tie between sleep and stress level is significant. A recommended seven to nine hours per night can seem impossible in college when homework piles up or when friends want to go out, right? Prioritize your sleep! Not that you have to say "no" to every late-night activity, but do keep in mind what you have going on the next day, how well you've been sleeping lately, etc. Don't let FOMO (fear of missing out) keep you from prioritizing your sleep. Missing one night out a week won't sabotage your friendships - it will benefit your sleep, stress level, and overall health.
- Just a couple basic tips: eat well and exercise. Like sleep, these habits contribute to your physical health most of all, and how you feel physically plays a significant role in your mental health.
- Know your limits when it comes to workload. Taking four classes each quarter or semester might feel overwhelming, and that's okay! Next time around, take on less units and fill that extra time with a job and/or hobby you truly enjoy, one that brings you joy and helps distract you from school. If you choose to work, let your boss know that you are a student above all else, so school takes priority over working. Send him/her your class schedule as soon as you get it and make sure you aren't scheduled for an insane amount of hours each week. I found that 15 hours of work per week was just enough to fill my time and my bank account without stressing me out.
- Take a step back and a deep breath in. Remind yourself that this situation, this stress is temporary and is NOT more powerful than youare. Seek help from a family member, a friend, and/or a counselor if you need it.
How did you keep your faith, amidst all of the college-life temptation? I kept (and still do keep) my faith because it's the only consistent thin in my life. Sure, I have my family and friends whom I know will always surround me, but the love of Jesus is inexplicably perfect in that way. He never leaves our side, and during my first few years of college, He showed me just how much I needed Him for that (and much more). Here are a few resources that I've referenced time and time again since my freshman year:
- Throughout the second half of my freshman year, I read the book of Psalms from cover to cover, making it the first time I've ever done that for a book in the Bible. Though I didn't understand what it truly means to be a follower of Christ, mostly because I was so consumed by my ED, reading one Psalm each day and meditating on it as much as I could was one of the major steps I took toward finding God in the mess I was in. David writes from a place similar to what I was feeling much of the time, so I felt I could relate to him, like God was calling me to this book (which He totally was, duh).
- During the summer after my freshman year, my mom gifted me with the book "Jesus Calling", by Sarah Young, so I spent some time each day during the summer and for the next year reading the devotionals. Each one "hit home" (if you will) in some way, shape, or form. Plus, they were short - perfect for focusing my mind and heart before a busy day, without forcing me to sit down and read an entire chapter of a book. Of course, this set of devotionals is not, in any way, a sort of Bible-substitute, but I still found it very powerful and moving.
- Towards the end of my sophomore year, my discipleship leader introduced me to the book "Idols of The Heart" by Elyse Fitzpatrick, and I'm convinced to this day that God put that book in my hands to help me take one of the biggest leaps out of my ED. Whenever someone asks me about it, I'm practically speechless, except for "YOU MUST READ IT." So, there you have it. You must read it.
- I also spent last summer diving into the book of Isaiah, as well as "Girl Defined" and "Captivating". Highly recommended, but again, these are not replacements for actual Scripture.
If you have made it this far, WOOOOO! This was a long one, but only because I wanted to stuff it full of information for those of you preparing for college or finishing up your first or second year. Wherever you are, I hope it was beneficial in some way! If you did find it helpful, or maybe you want to contribute your own tips or resources you utilize, leave them in the comment section below :)
Thanks for reading!