I still remember the first month of me going vegan; it was the first week of university after winter break. I didn't tell anyone; I decided it was going to be for myself. It was a year and a half after I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, and I knew that it might help with the allergic reactions. 

Additionally, I have always been adamant about the ethical treatments of animals, which is not practiced by the meat industry. So, I did it. A few of my friends who I ate at the dining hall with sort of noticed, but I didn't start labeling myself as a vegan until about three months later in March of 2016.

Harper Garfinkle

I'm not going to lie and say it was an easy adjustment. Along with being severely allergic to gluten, going vegan limited my options at the dining hall to the ever-dreaded salad and sometimes some vegetables drenched in oil. The end of my freshman year dining hall trips were very green, and I knew I wasn't getting all the nutrients I needed.

Celiac makes it much harder to absorb nutrients, so I started getting worried. On top of that, my solely meat-eating family found out before I came home, and they were very confused.

soup, vegetable
Margaret Ross

The biggest problem I faced beyond the nutrients was the cost. Because I could not cook for myself, I was frequenting restaurants that provided options for me, but they are expensive. Between $14 smoothie bowls and $20 tacos, I was developing a lifestyle that not only didn't fit who I am but also didn't fit my budget. I was relying on outside sources way too much, and I knew if this was going to work out, I could not keep it up.

rice, pepper, vegetable, black beans
Colleen Kilburn

When summer break came around, and I was back home working and (FINALLY) cooking. My Pinterest boards began loaded with gluten-free and vegan recipes, and I learned the best ways to meal plan and get the nutrients I needed.

I found love in making food to share with friends and adapting recipes. I was also feeling better; going to the farmer's market and making my own food was improving my health. I was more active, my skin was clearing up, and I noticed my Celiac reactions were very rare.

acorn squash, squash, pumpkin, vegetable, sweet, rice
Kendra Valkema

After that summer, I moved back on campus and again struggled with finding options. Partnered with a part-time job, my dining hall didn't offer many protein options, and the hours were not working with my schedule.

Finally, after about two months, I talked to the head chef about my concerns. I am so lucky that Chef Joseph was so understanding, and soon after, there was a protein option available every day. I would get a to-go box and fill it with veggies and beans, and I would be set with a lunchbox dinner to bring to work.

Speaking up and being honest about what I needed helped me build confidence for when I go out to restaurants and with friends; I know how to elaborate on what I need so people understand clearly.

lettuce, tomato, bread, chili, vegetable, tacos
Katherine Baker

Now, I have finally moved into my first apartment. Having a kitchen, partnered with what I learned during my summer in France, means that I am cooking with locally-sourced fruits & vegetables and am being more economic in my choices.

I can make a week's worth of food for less than $40 usually, and it's tasty stuff like Puerto Rican beans, avocado rice, and balsamic roasted vegetables. I meal prep all the time, and I know exactly what I am eating and where it came from. Even more, I am getting all the nutrients I need, and my overall health has improved tremendously. Don't believe it? Ask the doctor who was surprised to find out that I am Celiac and vegan.

sweet, vegetable
Delissa Handoko

So, after this long story, where does that leave me now? Well, I'm healthier, and I am no longer experiencing frequent Celiac reactions. I'm also no longer supporting an industry I personally find revolting, leaving my conscious more clear. Finally, I'm more conscious of what I am eating and where my money is being invested, and I have learned to be mindful about where my food is coming from and where my money is going. In sum, my life has changed, and going vegan made me the person I'm proud to be today.