Unwritten Rules of College with IBD

Mandy Morgan | Sept 27, 2017

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Being in college with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or going to college with IBD is tough. Thank goodness there are some unwritten rules that you and your buddies can live by — whether you have IBD or not.

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Join a new group

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Get out of your room and see what your campus is offering! This is an excellent way to not only make friends, but to connect with professors and other university professionals, which can then help you get a job after college. Colleges offer way more than your high-school selection of Key Club or JV sports. I joined a student-alumni association, and I had a suitemate in marching band. Find something you’re passionate about, whether it’s politics or picking the guitar.

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If it's the third quarter you can totally leave

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Sporting events are great in college: You go, you tailgate, you watch your awesome team win or your less-than-mediocre team lose. It’s a fun way to get in the school spirit, even if you aren’t super into sports. But don’t ever feel like you have to stay the ENTIRE time. You don’t. And most people won’t. If it’s the third quarter, or even the first, and your guts are less than pleased, leave. You won’t hurt anyone’s feelings and you might find you’ve got some friends who want to join you.

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You can use your IBD as an excuse

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You can totally do this. If your roommate has invited you to something you’d rather not attend, you can use your IBD as an excuse not to go. I used to get invited to go to the dining hall with my suitemates, and more often than not, “my guts were acting up.” Now, I’m not saying use the IBD excuse for classes or exams or things that you definitely need to be in attendance for. But if you need a good down day, blaming your IBD is perfectly OK.

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Take care of you

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One awesome thing I discovered in college was talking to a counselor about life. I also did the same thing with my advisor, and it was so wonderful to have someone to turn to for advice and stress relief. Find out what your campus offers to help take care of you, not only physically, but mentally too. It’s not weird to spend time with your advisor over a cup of coffee, or to hang out in his or her office. If it helps take care of you, do it. Everyone else is doing it too.

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If you’re trying something and think it’s stupid, it's probably stupid

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It doesn’t matter what it is. Don’t waste your time when you’re feeling good doing things that will make you feel bad in order to make friends or feel cool. Because you probably won’t.

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Eat when you want and what you want

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There is no right or wrong time to go to the dining hall, other than when it’s open. And if you know your trigger foods, you don’t have to eat them; most dining halls offer a wide variety of options, so you can usually find something even if you have dietary restrictions. You have to eat when your guts are agreeing with you, so when they’re not, don’t feel bad if you want to wait in a super long line. Also, take all the produce. It’s always nice to have a snack in a bind.

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If you want to rush and pledge, rush and pledge

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Greek life isn’t for everyone. But if it’s something you want to do, do it. It wasn’t my thing, but I had plenty of friends in Greek life who absolutely loved it. If it’s your dream to join a sorority or fraternity, do it. Don’t worry about what your friends, family, or roommates think.

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Your success matters

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You get to be selfish in college. You’re there to brighten your future. Don’t worry about your roommate who’s sleeping through his or her third class in a row. Don’t worry about the guy who always shows up late to class and is constantly asking for your notes. Take on the challenges you want, and leave the rest. This is your time to define yourself and find your passion. Be selfish in college when it comes to your academics, so you can achieve your dreams. Yes, it sounds corny, but it’s so true.

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Pace yourself

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Pace yourself with your classes, your activities, everything. You have at least four years to go to the sporting events, to join all the clubs, to get all the campus jobs, to go Greek, whatever it is. Make sure you have enough time for your classes and for you. It can be so enticing to dive in head-first and do everything, but that isn’t always the best strategy for success. Take your time, and do what feels right.

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Be unapologetically you

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This seems so simple, doesn’t it? But it can be really hard when you’re in a new place and trying new things. I definitely lost sight of myself a few times in college trying to fit in. But I was a lot happier when I was honest about my IBD, took classes I wanted to take, and made sure to get a full eight hours of sleep. That was how I made the most genuine friendships. Don’t lose sight of who you are because, at the end of the day, it’s all about you. So relish that every way you can.