Four months ago, as I loaded my life into the trunk of my car to drive to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), I was beyond excited and had no idea what my first semester as a college student would hold. The promise of engaging in classes that interested me, working towards a meaningful degree, meeting new friends, exploring new opportunities and interests, and embarking on a new chapter in life - it is still both overwhelming and exciting at once. Front and center in my trunk was the tall, standing, plastic, three drawer dresser that I had beautifully decorated the outside of in order to hide its contents of four months supply of practically every diabetes supply that my family could think of.
I could tell from the very first day that college would be a lot of work! Almost right away, I was spending hours in the library, running from here to there for clubs, projects, study groups, class, and...oh yeah, friends and some rest too! Immediately, my time management skills, mental and physical health, education, social life, and ability to live on my own were put to the test. Like every freshman in college, I had to adjust to having a roommate (she quickly discovered that meter test strips somehow land everywhere, despite my best efforts to contain them on my side of the room), making new friends, having new classes, and more! Although it took a week or two, I eventually fell into the groove of things and began to truly enjoy every minute of this experience. In one semester, I was exposed to the works of Socrates and Boethius, learned some french (oui, oui!), joined a multitude of clubs that I am passionate about, went to a concert and Homecoming with some amazing new friends, added a second major onto my goals, and much more!
I was always one of the most excited out of my friends in high school to go away to college, but to be perfectly honest, my diabetes had never been so much of a burden or so out of control as it was the second after I said “so - long” to my parents. And, I had not expected this curve ball to be so hard to hit.
As much as I like to think that I was completely independent in my diabetes care when I lived at home, I was not. At college, every decision and responsibility for my care falls entirely on me. I knew from day 1 that I had to be vigilant. If I wanted to have an easy transition to college, I needed strict control of my blood sugars. I tried my absolute hardest, but my blood sugars were ranging from 50 to 400 in a day...something I had never experienced for weeks at a time in all 12 years of my living with T1D. As much as I tested my blood sugar, I could not decode the strange carbohydrate counts in the mysterious dining hall food, of which I had no idea of its ingredients or portion sizes. I had different stressors, a different exercise routine, and a new life to adjust my diabetes to. No longer could I totally hide that dresser of supplies. After less than a month it was obvious that I was going to have to wear my Continuous Glucose Monitoring Device 24/7 from then on, and I started a club to connect with fellow students living with T1D in college. Similar to Penpals United support groups, we met and talked about our experiences. (some of my closest friends without T1D who I had told my diabetes even came too for support, which was so empowering!). Finally, just like every other part of my life, I began to control it.
Adjusting to college was a huge change. When you throw diabetes into the mix, both aspects end up complicating each other even more. Through some trial and error in both regards, I adjusted to college, maintained better control of my diabetes management, and have learned immensely about myself after just one semester. I cannot even begin to imagine what the next years will bring!
Hello everyone! I'm Hannah! I'm 16 years old and have been living a normal life with type 1 diabetes for 10 years! I'm so excited to share the journey of Penpals United with you through our blog!