This letter to all Pre-Freshmen was written by Lily Roth, author behind the Food Allergy Survival Guide College Edition.
Today, I was sitting in the park with my friend watching soon to be Freshman walk by, eyes wide open, taking in the sites of our beautiful campus. See at Pitt, soon-to-be Freshman (or Pre-Freshman as my friend calls them), who have come to campus for orientation are easily recognizable as they each don a cheap navy blue and gold Pitt Start cinch backpack. As I pointed them out, semi-reflecting on how far I have come in the past two years in college, I couldn’t help but think about all of the unknowns that were swirling around inside of my head and some of the things I would have wanted to know before heading 6 hours away from home when I was in their shoes. So, in hopes this will help someone else, here is my list of 10 things I wish I had known before I started my freshman year of college.
People are going to like you for who you are
I have an amazing group of friends from high school and I thought that I was never going to find friends like them anywhere else. My high school friends were amazing about my allergies and never made me feel bad about them or left out. I was worried that going to college I wasn’t going to find new friends who loved me as much as my high school friends love me. My fears vanished as I quickly made friends in college who cared about me as much as my high school friends do. The truth is, no matter where you go, there are going to be jerks and there are going to be people who love you for who you are and care about you more than you could ever imagine.
There is going to be alcohol
Sure, not all of college is drinking and partying–at least it isn’t if you plan to stay in college for more than one semester, but alcohol makes an appearance very frequently in college. If you are thinking about drinking once you get to college (if you haven’t already) the most important thing is finding alcohol that is safe for you to consume. This might mean a serious conversation with your parents or allergist. If you are going to drink, be smart. Know where your medication is. Don’t eat questionable food and don’t get yourself to the point where you have lost all your inhibitions.
You will probably have an unexpected hookup/attempted hookup
I will never forget the first time someone tried to hookup with me in college. We were in my friend’s dorm on a guys floor hanging out with some friends she had met when one of their drunk roommates came in. He came down, sat next to me, put his arm around me and proceeded to ask if he could kiss me (A+ for asking for consent, although I must say it was quite strange). After explaining my allergies to him and the fact that what he was drinking and eating contained things I was allergic to, I told him maybe later if he cleaned himself up. The conversation continued, and he kept his arm around me. A few minutes later, I felt him kissing my neck. Needless to say, within a few minutes I had big bulging hives up and down my neck (at least they weren’t hickies I suppose). Anyway, long story short, it is important to learn how to refuse someone and explain that it is unsafe at the moment but maybe later once they have taken necessary precautions.
You will probably have an allergic reaction
I have had my fair share of anaphylactic reactions in college. Some of them were my own stupidity and others were completely unpreventable. Regardless, even if you haven’t had an anaphylactic reaction since you were two years old, it is so important to be prepared for one when you go to college. Don’t leave anywhere without your epipens and make sure they aren’t expired and you know how to use them.
You are going to be left out
The truth is, there are some things that happen in college that no matter how hard you try to make accommodations will just never be safe. While it can feel super sucky in the moment, in the end, it is much better than risking your life.
You are going to get frustrated
Having food allergies in college sucks. It limits your ability to go out and be spontaneous the way college students like to. And the truth is, you are going to get frustrated because sometimes it will seem like your food allergies are holding you back or you are missing out on fun. The most important thing is when you start to get frustrated, don’t internalize it. Get out, relax and do something that makes you happy and feel safe.
You are going to learn to advocate for yourself
There will be times when you have to speak up for yourself because your parents are no longer with you to raise their voices. It will take some time to get used to taking on full responsibility for your food allergies if you haven’t already, but I have no doubt you will get the hang of it.
Your parents are going to be overprotective, and that is ok
I remember my first semester of freshman year, my mom was constantly checking up on me to make sure I was still alive. It got frustrating very quickly but then I realized that she was only checking up on me because she loves me. So if your parents text or call you, do them (and yourself a favor) and respond. You owe it to them to let them know you are ok.
You can’t plan/control everything
On the Myers Brigs Personality Inventory, I always rank as an ESFJ- the J, for Judging speaks to my strong need to pre-plan. For me, planing in advance helps keep me safe. Since I have been in college, I have had to learn that no matter how hard I try I can’t control everything and the only true thing I can plan for is an emergency.
Don’t let food allergies be your excuse
I am an extrovert. I love being around people and trying new things. This past year, I went way out of my comfort zone and tried a lot of things I probably never would have done before college. While it made me more susceptible to asthma attacks and allergic reactions because I wasn’t in the safety of my own apartment, I don’t regret getting out and living life.
So Pre-Freshman, if you are still with me, I want you to know I am wishing you the best possible experience in college. My one piece of parting advice is be safe, be prepared and most of all, have fun and learn a lot. If you are feeling alone, and anxious and looking for some advice, don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected].
Good luck in your next 4 years of college!