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University with a Stoma: Moving Out & Student Living

Hey! Welcome to my mini university series – I hope that somewhere throughout I can help put your mind at ease or help make life a tiny bit easier during this huge transition!

So, the first thing I’d like to chat about is possibly one of the biggest things with regards to starting University for anyone, that is, moving out and student living. I don’t know about you, but, growing up with the unpredictable lifestyle of living with IBD has made me an organisation freak when it comes to planning where I’m going to be or knowing the type of place that I’ll be going to. So, applying for student accommodation months before moving out sent me into absolute turmoil for numerous reasons!!

However, there are things that can be done to make the planning and the transition a little easier:

Contact University student services

One thing that I found that really helped me was contacting my chosen University’s student services. They were fantastic and arranged a meeting with me in the summer before commencing to chat through everything and give me an opportunity to ask any questions or voice any worries that I may have had at the time – one of these being where I was going to live. They helped me consider all of the options and narrow down which would be best suited. They arranged for my mum and I to visit all of these shortlisted options on the same day and weighed up the pros and cons of them all. It was great to get an unbiased and honest opinion from someone knowledgeable who genuinely wanted to help find where I’d be most happy and suited my needs best. Through doing this, I managed to get a refurbished ensuite room that had lots more storage space and even a little fridge for any meds etc that needed to be kept cool. They even showed me the exact room they’d be allocating me so that I could really put my mind at rest and start preparing for the big move.

Stock up on supplies

Stockpile supplies and meds before moving!! To put your mind at rest and be best prepared for any delays, changes in address, doctors surgeries etc I highly recommend stocking up before you go giving you time to suss out best delivery locations or to change GP if needed or allow for any other bumps that may come in the process of moving. I still actually stockpile at the beginning of each term so that I know where I’m at with it all.

Storage

Leading on from the latter, invest in storage for your supplies. Student accommodation is renowned for not being the best when it comes to storage provided so keep an eye out on the must IKEA trip for something suitable to store your supplies in while at UNI.

Invest in a bin

Get a little bin for your room/en suite (this is something I’ve done each year from house to house) so once I’ve changed my bag, I can pop it in my own bin instead and empty that every couple of days when needs be rather than letting them pile up in the communal bins that can be left hanging around for quite a while.

Create a comfortable atmosphere

Create somewhere that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed – the importance of this is so underrated!! Living in shared accommodation is so much fun however, it can prove difficult at times particularly when living with a chronic illness and having a ‘bad’ day. There’s nothing more you want than to be cuddled up on your sofa back at home so creating an environment in your little bedroom that makes you feel relaxed and comfortable that you can retreat to at those times is a godsend!

Form a routine

Form yourself a little routine. This sounds so simple but is so crucial in many ways for both your physical and, mental health. University is a strange place and it can be so easy to fall into bad habits with nobody nagging or guiding you. Even if this is getting up at a certain time each day, exercising regularly, making sure that you eat regular proper meals – I promise, it will make the world of difference!

Look after yourself

Look after yourself! I remember in the weeks leading up to moving out and in the first few weeks after due to a mixture of nerves etc all I could think about was being skinny. It sounds so so silly thinking back (because it really is, learn from my mistakes) – I thought that if I could get as slim as possible then I’d be looking my best, my stoma would be less visible, I’d feel more worthy and confident, bla bla bla. Because of this, I ate minimally before nights out and, in general. I worked out lots and even when I didn’t have time, would force myself to get down to the gym and cram something into my already hectic day. This is not a good combination with nights out, being busy and adapting to a new life and over the years I’ve been a student, I have learned that none of the things I mentioned matter and in fact, don’t make a difference whatsoever to the friends you make or how much of a good time you have – in fact, I had a worse time then if anything because that’s all that was on my mind. And above all, it’s not healthy. There’s nothing better than a hearty meal at UNI – homesick? Hearty dinner. Hungover? Hearty dinner. Need to line your stomach? Hearty dinner. Listen to your bod and give it the care and attention it deserves.

Apply for DSA

If you haven’t already, apply for DSA!! It is often hard as a young person with IBD and/or a stoma to qualify for any additional help or support whether that be financial or physical and we all know how difficult university is at is however, students with IBD and/or a stoma more often than not qualify for DSA (Disabled Students Allowance) which can vary from a note taker in absence, extra tutor time, public transport/taxi fare support, tech with additional software’s – just to list a few! I was put off applying for this having had an awful PIP experience however, I can confirm that the DSA application experience was totally different – they want to help and provide you with as much as they can to help make life a little easier.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Moving house is hard and tiring work and not to be underestimated. I’ve made the mistake in the past of feeling guilty for asking for help and attempted to move single handily – not a good idea!

And remember, if it all gets too much, you can always retreat home for some time out.

Amber

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