It's hard enough trying to find something edible in most college dining halls, but for a vegetarian it's even worse. Sure there's a salad bar, complete with brown lettuce, rotten tomatoes and empty dressing containers. Of course there's pizza, which has more grease than cheese. Maybe you could have some soup, depending on whether or not your dining hall tells you the ingredients, and chances are the broth used is chicken or beef. Also, since I apparently can't eat anything else, there were plenty of nights (more than I'd like to admit) that I just ate cake for dinner.
2. Ordering in.
On a take-out menu you can at least see all the ingredients, so you know what you're ordering. Usually, though, there's only one or two things that you can order. You learn which places are better. Chinese food usually has plenty of options for vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free people. Pizza isn't bad, although sometimes you can feel like a pain when you remind everyone you need at least half a pizza without meat. (Every once in a while you get someone that asks if you can just take the meat off of it, but I've found that a side-glance and an eye-roll stops that rude behavior.)
3. Going out to dinner.
Sit down and really think about how many vegetarian options there are on standard restaurant menus. Don't just think about the salad section, either — sometimes the salads aren't even vegetarian. Not only that, but just because someone is vegetarian, does not mean they only eat salads or only want salads. Vegetarians crave all the same things that non-vegetarians do, just without the meat. On the rare occasion that college kids go out to dinner, there are usually just a handful of options that vegetarians can eat at restaurants. Then, when all of your friends want to go to a restaurant, and you're not feeling the one thing you can have on the menu, it can be kind of awkward.
4. Going home to a non-vegetarian family.
It's funny that when semester breaks are coming up, everyone gets excited to have home-cooked food. Except for the vegetarians. Vegetarians going home to non-vegetarian families are not so excited because they're never sure of what they're going to be able to eat. I often hear the line, "Hey, you're the one that decided to be vegetarian, you figure out what you're going to eat for dinner." My family is right, I did decide to be vegetarian, and I can make my own dinners. It just feels weird to have to concentrate so hard on what I can eat, even when I'm on break and relaxing at home.
5. Having to explain why you're vegetarian.
People are so quick to criticize young people's decisions and discoveries, especially after they come home from college. Other college students are usually accepting as soon as you tell them. But family and old friends from home are a lot more skeptical. Incredibly, while you were away at school, everyone you knew at home became a nutritionist and discovered that you need essential proteins from meat. You won't forget, though, because they will not stop reminding you. After that, they'll defend how much they love animals, too, even though they "just couldn't give up bacon!" and will probably jokingly ask "If you love animals so much, why are you eating their food?" It's honestly exhausting defending my choices every time someone asks. It wouldn't be so bad, if just one person didn't say, "Oh yeah, you'll grow out of that."
The struggle is real, fellow veg heads. Mo' veggies, mo' problems.