I started my plant-based journey at seven-years old as a vegetarian. I grew up in a household that never had a lot of meat, so the decision was pretty easy for me. I understood the ethics behind meat consumption, including the environmental impacts, at a young age and wanted to boycott the animal abuse that defines the industry.
After a few years, I decided to take the next step and adopt a vegan lifestyle. I was the first in my family to completely remove animal products from my life. Fortunately for me, my fellow family members soon followed in my footsteps (except for my carnivorous brother). I am well aware that not everyone's family accepts their dietary change, so I was extremely grateful that my parents and siblings supported my decision.
Even though I had their encouragement, being a vegan as a child was still a struggle. I had to bring my own cake to birthdays, I couldn't participate in pizza parties at school. I assumed it wouldn't feel as isolating when I got older, but the situation surprisingly didn't improve much after I moved away for college.
Despite my expectations, the population of vegans at my college campus is almost as dismal as it was in my hometown. If anything, there are more problems I face as a vegan undergraduate student than I did before.
1. The Dining Halls Have NothingGiphy
Although I am grateful that my university tries to implement vegan options, it tends to be the same thing everyday: soggy vegetables and unseasoned tofu. Of course, this is a problem nationwide at colleges.
2. No One Wants to Try that RestaurantGiphy
Since vegan restaurants tend to be more expensive, I can understand why broke college students would prefer to get a cheap taco rather than try a vegan place with me. Still, it hurts just a little bit.
3. People Judge Your PlateGiphy
Whether it's looking with disgust at my meal or poking at the mysterious meat-substitute on my plate, some people are evidently uncomfortable when I bring my food over.
4. People Get Scared that You're Silently JudgingGiphy
Trust me, I genuinely do not mind if you eat in front of me. I don't expect my friends to follow my diet because I recognize it's not for everyone. Go ahead and have your hotdog.
5. Cooking is Almost ImpossibleGiphy
I'm basically the worst chef in the world, but being vegan means that sometimes I have to make my own meals. However, it's pretty difficult to find ingredients for a satisfying plant-based meal on a college campus. Unless I want a dinner of Oreos and potato chips from the vending machine, I'm out of luck.
6. Dating Gets Tricky
College is a time for exploration, which means potentially finding new romantic interests. Unfortunately, most first dates usually involve me ordering a salad without cheese or chicken. So, I basically have to sustain myself off lettuce and a single cherry tomato for the duration of the dinner.
7. The Guessing Game
Especially at dining halls, it's hard to tell if something is cruelty-free. While some options are labeled, others are not, which means I have to inspect whether that sandwich has mayo without being too awkward about it.
8. Not Everyone Respects ItGiphy
Even in college, I am still constantly asked to "just try it" or "have a cheat day." I don't want to impose my veganism on anyone in anyway, but others do not necessarily feel the same way about me.
If you're interested in pursuing a plant-based lifestyle, there are a ton of resources online on how to make the transition in a way that won't hurt your wallet. Or, maybe you can just explore small steps to limit using animal products in your life. Happy ethical eating!