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Being at university with an allergy/intolerance

A Picture of Jessie B

I may have said ‘allergy’ and ‘intolerance’ but my personal example is an auto-immune deficiency – but that makes for a far less catchy title.

I have coeliac ‘disease’. That makes it sound contagious, it isn’t. It’s an auto-immune deficiency where the immune system reacts to gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. I was diagnosed with this at 18 months old. My father, too, suffers with the same thing.

Yes, I have lived with this all of my life. I have also lived with my parents all of my life. Moving out, moving to live away from home, was a far bigger culture shock than I ever imagined, and for different reasons than you’re probably thinking.

Firstly, yes you will be asked ridiculous questions, ALL the time. Of course this happens anywhere, but at university it is pretty much EVERY person you meet. Even when you have explained what it is that you are allergic to, exactly, you will still get the questions. “Can you eat potatoes?” “Can you eat cheese?” Then there are the things you obviously can’t eat and people insist on informing you how much you are missing out on. “So you can’t eat CAKE? I don’t know how I would live!

You just have to remember, not everyone has heard of it and so what may seem like common sense to you may be a foreign language to someone else.

Then there is the group meals/cooking situation. Naturally people tend to pair up for cooking tea (/dinner? /supper??) because it saves time and money. However this is an unlikely occurrence for those who eat weird things that people don’t really get. For example there is a common misconception that gluten is flavour, therefore anything gluten-free must also be flavour-free. Faces are pulled when I say that the rest of my family (the ‘normal’ ones) eat gluten-free pasta (willingly?!). Or having a house meal at uni and everyone commenting on how ‘normal’ the pasta bake tastes. Again, does pasta taste of anything?

I knew this topic was worthy of a blog post because Buzz Feed have written a page about it, far more humorous and concise than the above but worth a look.

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