University can pose some intimidating challenges for newly independent vegans. Vegan student Sophie Pearn shares her top tips on navigating university life as a vegan student to help you stay on track.
Leaving home for university can be a daunting experience, especially if you are navigating the world of cooking, budgeting and eating nutritionally for the first time. However, this exciting next step in your life is a great opportunity to own your independence and develop life long skills. When I first left for university I was vegetarian and had a basic understanding of cooking. I remember turning down a free Domino’s pizza and feeling concerned that I’d be questioned on my lifestyle or face challenges surrounding my beliefs.
Fast forward three years and I love trying out new recipes with friends and introducing sceptical meat-eaters to flavourful vegan food. I’ve learned that University doesn’t have to be a struggle; it’s an uplifting environment that allows you to build a family away from home that encourages your perspective and inspires you to be open with others.
Most student unions have Vegan/Vegetarian societies which can help educate you further and support your needs, whether that is animal welfare, ethics, the environment, health, cultural values or a general curiosity for a change in mindset. Reaching out to your peers who are already passionate about the same issues as you is a great way of making friends and becoming aware of social events going on in your community.
There are numerous vegan Facebook groups that have an abundance of information on vegan activities, animal rights movements and information on where to eat in the area.
Organisation at university is the key to being a happy vegan. Whilst batch cooking may take time initially, it means you can indulge in mouth-watering meals throughout the week, whilst freeing up your schedule for work and socialising. I recommend investing in an array of herbs, spices, and nutritional yeast as they are fantastic contributions to enhance flavour and bring to life even the simplest of dishes.
I quickly learned a great way of saving money is to make my own versions of the expensive snacks I love to consume.
Buying a large jar of Tahini Paste provides the staple for multiple servings of hearty homemade houmous which is seriously delicious and dangerously addictive after a night out. Another useful insight has been changing my shopping habits from big chain supermarkets to local greengrocers.
This transition in spending has been incredibly beneficial as small shops often discount perfectly edible fruits and vegetables. I also feel happy about contributing to independent trade and family-run businesses. Avocados might seem high-priced, but look out for ones that are reduced due to being ripe as they make a great base for garlicky guacamole or creamy pesto, both of which can be frozen or stored with ease.
Veganism is on the rise and with initiatives such as Meat Free Monday and Veganuary happening across the country, it’s a great time to engage yourself in the interesting and ethical conversations taking place. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve taken away from being a student is to embrace my individuality and celebrate my beliefs with open arms.
Sophie’s top tips for being a vegan at university
- Be proud of being vegan – it’s worth celebrating.
- Be open-minded when engaging with other students who are different from you. Every conversation is an opportunity to learn something.
- Attend your university Fresher’s Fair, so that you can make contact with Vegan/Vegetarian societies and meet other freshers who share similar interests.
- Create tasty vegan treats to share with your new housemates. Vegan tiffin is delicious and requires no baking, simply mix the ingredients and refrigerate.
- Look out for ways to give feedback to your university on how they can improve the experience for vegans on campus.
- Make sure to eat a balanced diet when studying. Food is fuel.
- If you share accommodation, ask others to be respectful of your veganism and be mindful of their life choices too.
- Shop around in the local area and broaden your foodie horizons. World food shops have an abundance of exciting ingredients.
- Budget, plan and live within your means. Have an understanding of what are essential costs, and always have easy to snack on foods at home.
- Embrace all that university has to offer and get involved with as much as possible. Time really does fly by.
Check out our guide to surviving Fresher’s Week as a vegan student here.
Sophie Pearn is a Creative and Professional Writing Student, a lover of animals and a plant-based food enthusiast. Originally from the Cornish countryside, Sophie moved to Bristol to pursue her dream of writing in a location where her social ethics and imagination are most inspired.
Sophie has designed a Creative Writing Wellbeing book for young adults, facilitated workshops with the Teenage Cancer Unit and is currently a Writer in Residence at UWE raising awareness of Bristol homelessness.