"Initially, the idea of moving away from home made me nervous. But once I knew where I was headed for freshman year of college, I immediately started communicating with my university’s various resources regarding potential living options. Ultimately I was able to get assigned a traditional dorm room with a private bathroom. This allowed me to go to school away from home, feel comfortable and still live amongst the other freshman." -Rachel Gerstenfeld, member of the National Council of College Leaders
Moving into a campus dorm or residence hall for the first time can be overwhelming, especially if you have IBD. From living with one or more roommates to navigating the bathrooms, there is a lot to consider. However, it is absolutely possible for someone with IBD to have a positive experience living in a shared dorm space. With the right accommodations and information, you can manage your disease while living alongside your peers.
- Connect with helpful resources on your campus. Get into contact with the Office of Disability Services and Residence Life/Housing where you will attend school. Be sure to discuss all possible dorm options. Some schools have traditional dorm rooms with private or semi-private bathrooms, while other schools exclusively have residence halls with communal style bathrooms. If you are more comfortable sharing a bathroom with just one or two people, it may be possible to do so if you have a physician’s note and evaluation.
- Know your surroundings. Familiarize yourself with the dorm building you are assigned. If you do not have your own bathroom, find out where the communal restroom is on your floor and how many stalls there are so you know what to expect.
- Talk to your roommate. How you choose to discuss aspects of your disease is completely an individual decision. If you feel comfortable, you may want to ensure that your roommate(s) understand how your IBD may affect your dorm room environment. For example, you may want to discuss how you feel about having visitors in the room if you aren’t feeling well. You may also want to let your roommate know if you have medications or medical supplies in the room that they should be cautious of. For example, if you need to keep a medication in a shared mini fridge, make sure they are aware that you will be storing it in there.
- Keep some items handy! Some helpful things to keep in your room may include snacks that you tolerate well, a mini fan in the event of very hot days, and contact information for your doctors’ offices and pharmacy.
Other helpful resources on dorm life with IBD: