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.
Name and Age: Charles, 21
School: Ohio University, Athens Campus, Class of 2017
When I was diagnosed at 14 years old, my world turned upside down. At the time, I thought I was going to enlist in the Marine Corps directly out of high school. Type 1 diabetes had other plans for me.
After I had accepted I would be attending college after high school, I had a good idea of where I wanted to go. Ohio University was only a 20-minute commute from home, had the only osteopathic medical school in the state, and it even had a Diabetes Institute where research scientists, clinicians, educators and students met to improve the quality of life for those affected by diabetes. It was truly the perfect school for me.
Because the campus was so perfectly suited to me, I didn’t look too deeply into their medical accommodations or health services for students. My doctor’s office is less than a three-minute drive from campus, which is a huge advantage. Everything I needed for college, for life with type 1 in general, was close at hand. This made my transition into college relatively simple—dare I say easy. I know others aren’t as lucky. But the real transition for me was how I interacted with my diabetes.
Type 1 can be straining on a person, and some may even feel ashamed by it. But please trust me when I say that telling someone about your condition is one of the best things you can do. This may not be the easiest thing for everyone to do. Talking about it is a relief in its own right. Once you can “own” your diabetes, then there is nothing it can throw at you that you can’t overcome—but that first requires you to embrace it and understand how it can affect your life. Inform the people around you so they can help you own it.
I make every effort to coexist with my disease rather than to fight it, and that requires the people closest to me to have a deep understanding of my diabetes and what to do in the event of a crisis. You never have to go it alone!
In my hometown of Glouster, I know of three other people with type 1 diabetes. Two of them went to the same high school as I did. You could say that outside of diabetes camp, which I attended in the summer, my interactions with other people with type 1 were nearly non-existent. This changed in my sophomore year of college, when my doctor and some of the nutrition faculty approached me about starting a club for people with diabetes.
The club would go on to become the Ohio University chapter of the College Diabetes Network. Helping to co-found this group has had a profound impact on me. I’ve connected with leaders in the diabetes sector, which has really made me reevaluate how I want to continue into my career. I want to work toward better treatment methods and the ever-elusive cure, but I also want to work outside the traditional realm of medicine. I want to support my peers to find the best course of treatment rather than dictating what that means. I want to treat the people and not just the disease. I know what it’s like to be on the patient side of health care; it’s important to make it more personal.
Ever since joining CDN, I’ve become the “diabetes guy” on campus. In helping to found our chapter, I made contacts in our Diabetes Institute, our medical school and our local diabetes programs. I was never afraid of talking about my diabetes before entering college, but in working with CDN along with other organizations, I became a self-proclaimed expert in telling people about it. My friends and coworkers could probably tell you more about type 1 diabetes than your typical person, based on the amount of information I pass on to them.
If you’re heading off to college with diabetes, do not be afraid to get involved! You never know who is “touched by diabetes,” and you might be surprised by who is interested in working with you or even just sitting down and having a conversation about diabetes.
Take it from someone who went it alone all four years of high school. You can tackle your diabetes all by yourself, it will never beat you unless you let it. But having people close to you who can help you when you really need it—that can make beating diabetes all the easier.
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.