This will be my first year going off to college and I鈥檓 a little bit nervous about it. The prospect of traveling hundreds of miles away from home and my HTC was already daunting, and COVID has only made this big transition feel even bigger. What can I do to make sure my time at school is as safe, fulfilling, and productive as possible?
First of all, don鈥檛 feel bad about feeling nervous! Many new college students across all walks of life feel apprehension at the beginning of this journey you鈥檙e about to embark upon and entering school with a bleeding disorder and a global pandemic can be even more challenging. The good news is that you don鈥檛 have to do this alone, and that there are lots of people ready at the wings to support you.
Your first call should be to your school鈥檚 office of accessibility or disability services, where a professional team of student advocates can help you come up with a set of accommodations that work for you. Don鈥檛 be shy about asserting your needs during these conversations: it鈥檚 always best to plan for the worst and hope for the best, and you don鈥檛 want to change things up on professors halfway through the semester. The office of accessibility services can help you come up with reasonable accommodations like accessible housing, an extension plan to be used in the case of bleeds, etc. Once the accessibility services team understands your needs they can advocate with professors, housing services, etc. to make these plans a reality so you have everything you need to be successful at school.
After your chat with accessibility services you should next touch base with the student health center. Even if you never make use of their services during your time at college, it鈥檚 always a good idea to introduce yourself to this medical team so they know a little about you and your diagnosis. The student health center is also a great place to have your factor shipped to, because they can sign for the package and refrigerate your product on delivery while you鈥檙e delayed with classes or other obligations.
Your next stop should be the local HTC, where you鈥檒l also want to strike up a relationship. It鈥檚 not necessary to visit in person (especially in a time of social distancing), but it鈥檚 a good idea to build a professional relationship with this HTC before stepping onto campus. For the next four years or so, you鈥檒l spend most of your year closer to this HTC than to your team at home. Some pediatric HTCs will keep patients on through college, but if you鈥檙e not so lucky this will be your primary team for the next critical stage of your life. And even if you are sticking with your old HTC for the time being, making this transition is always good practice.
Finally, make time for a conversation with your roommates. Many people don鈥檛 even know what a bleeding disorder is and clarifying the most basic information should prevent awkward situations like coming home to find that your dorm fridge of factor is also filled with greasy pizza. These conversations can be difficult, so if you need help check out our last Dear Addy column (link) about disclosing to a romantic partner. A roommate and a significant other aren鈥檛 quite the same, but in both cases you鈥檒l need to learn to live with these people!
Finally, what about the pandemic? The good news is that 99% of the precautions you should take in a pandemic apply to all students. Practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, and follow the directions of your school鈥檚 administration. These are not ideal conditions for a first semester of school, but if you take the appropriate precautions it can still be a productive one. Your time at college is not defined by your first semester, and if you set yourself up for success with these handy tips this semester can be a challenging-but-rewarding beginning to an amazing experience!
For more helpful tips and resources, check out the Hemophilia Federation of America website.