Friday, August 3, 2012

Move In Day: Starting A New Gluten Free Life

I thought I would start off my week of college blogging with the way all students start their college career; Move In Day! Every year students pack their parent's cars full of everything they need to survive a year of school (and a little more!) and drive great distances in the wee hours of the morning to try and get to campus early. The streets around campus will be packed (I try to stay miles away from any college on move in day) and there is a certain excitement in the air that can only mean the start of not only a new school year, but for a lot of students, the start of a new chapter of life. Some will adapt very well to college, but others will struggle with the lifestyle change.

When you are packing your essentials up for school, it will suddenly hit you that you are going to be 100% on your own, without your parents, for the first time in your life. It's a scary, empowering, and thrilling feeling. For those of you who are on a gluten free diet, this may present a little more of a challenge that the average student. A lot of gluten free children grow up with their parents preparing all of their food for them, and unless their parents took the initiative to teach them to cook, they are in for a culture shock. Here's what you can do to make your transition into your new life easier:

1. Pack Some Gluten Free Basics
Crackers, bread, instant rice and other basics are essential to any sort of move. You want to make sure that whatever you pack at first are non-perishable food items. My advice is to buy a crate (which will become your new favorite storage tool) and pack that will some gluten free essentials. Everybody has their favorites when it comes to brands, and things they eat often. make sure if you have roommates, you label ALL of your food, or some of it might disappear!

2. Find Out More About Your Living Situation
There are many different ways you can move to a new college. To start off, dorm rooms are small, and have the very basics. Some of them provide you with a micro-fridge (a fridge with a microwave built into the top) and some don't. Make sure you figure this out before you plan your food supply so you don't get caught off guard. Some dorm buildings have shared kitchens. make sure you find out what this consists of as well. I have had friends move to a new school where the "kitchen" is a wall of microwaves and a counter and sink. If you are living in on-campus apartments, you are significantly more likely to have what you need. These places are usually old apartment houses that the school bought from a neighboring piece of property and have dressed up to look new again. There is usually a full kitchen, but again, please call your school and make sure. Lastly is off campus living. If you get a single room apartment or a full apartment with friends, you need to figure out what you will have access to.

3. Get To Know Your Dining Services
Every campus has a dining services area, and if you are living on campus, it is very likely that you will be required to have a dining plan. As soon as you know this situation, contact the head of dining services for your campus. Although I personally had a bad experience with the dining services at my school, I promise that not all schools are like this. Most dining programs are more than happy to work with you. How much they are willing to work with you is what you need to find out. Some places ask that you bring your own bread and pasta and they will prepare it for you. Others will fully provide food for you to eat. This is why it's important to contact your dining services and see what they are willing to do. You are paying hundreds of dollars to them to eat, and they are there to serve you, so don't let them cheat you!

4. Get To Know The Area
There are two ways to do this. 1. Go to the area with a friend or family member before school starts and explore the area. This is a very fun way, but it's not always the most efficient. If the city your school is in is big, you might not know where to go, and if it's small, you might need to go to a neighboring town. 2. Make friends with a local and ask them. I am active on the Fitchburg State University new students Facebook page right now so I can make new friends, and help those who are new to the area find what they need. I have met two lovely girls so far who are gluten free and I have been telling them about our local restaurants and stores where they can find food. The best part about knowing a local is that they know the little hidden gem stores that might not be hugely popular.

I wish everybody who is starting school this fall the best of luck on their new adventure in life. It's scary and exciting and will definitely have a big impact in you. The good news is, there are thousands of you going through the same feeling who are all there to support each other. The friendships you make now will be some that you will have for the rest of your life.

Again, I would love to hear about your college experience. Please feel free to e-mail me at with your story.

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