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Veganism at university and student halls


Preparaing to cook!

"I bet tomorrow a stuck-up vegan will move into our flat who we'll have to taunt with a massive steak". 

This was (roughly) what was said by a guy at a flat party on my first night in halls in 2008. I was not yet vegan or vegetarian, but having always felt funny about eating meat I began to look awkwardly at the floor. Whilst this was an extreme statement (and from further meetings with this guy I can confirm he was just an all round dick) veganism can still be considered strange in a lot of quarters. And when moving into halls you have a lot of hope (and worries) as to what kind of people you'll end up with. 

Like, will your new flatmates be down with your veganism? 

Having not been vegan when I went to university, it wasn't really much of an issue. But one issue I did have when I moved into halls was that my maturity levels were a bit higher and I was certainly more prepped for the real world than most of the girls I ended up with. And one area this maturity really showed itself was in food. I didn't eat one single pot noodle the entire time I was in university and I knew how to cook simple meals. Most of the girls I ended up with could barely put a cheese toastie together and one girl (for real) threw out a bag of defrosted chips because she thought she couldn't refreeze. My very first boyfriend who I met in halls also had no concept of grown up food and was always trying to talk me into ordering takeaways and pizzas. 

However, in the most recent issue of VeganLife Magazine* there was a segment on moving into halls as a vegan. And as you would have it the student who wrote it was nervous about remaining vegan in shared student accommodation. But thankfully his fears turned out to be over-the-top and he ended up getting along well with his non-vegan flatmates. 

New Scarf (& a silly face)
Me, aged 19, posing in the bathroom of my second year halls. 

Though halls can be daunting and I have a tone of tips to offer to get through the year in general, these are my tips on being vegan in halls with advice from the article and my own experience: 

- Learn assertiveness
Veganism is still uncommon and in halls a lot of students might be moving from more areas of the UK and other countries where places like Mono Café don't exist (and may be very unfamiliar with veganism). Or they might just be dicks like the guy mentioned above. But you may need to practice your assertive vegan speech or answer a lot of questions about your lifestyle choice. 

- Shared cooking space
Halls are dirty and unclean. That stereotype holds a lot of truth. Now that I live in more grown up flatshares I feel more comfortable being assertive about cleanliness, but when you're moving into student halls a messy kitchen is part of the deal. Yes, it's disrespectful and rude for someone not to clean the kitchen after they're done with it but when you're living with 18 year freshers you've got to half expect it. 

What you can do however is have your own cooking equipment which you keep in your room. I lived in halls for two years and a lot of people do this, so don't feel awkward about not sharing a pan that belongs to you. And you can always disenfect the kitchen when your flatmates are out (I did this plenty of times).

- Have some quick and easy vegan meals on standby
One of the annoying things about living in halls is that you need to be out the kitchen quickly, as there are multiple people needing to use it. So practice some quick recipes while still at your parents. The author of the article suggests stir-fries, a chickpea curry and stocking up on Linda McCartney ready meals. Even to this day I keep a bag of onion rings in the freezer for days when I can't be bothered faffing. 

- Alcohol and veganism
In halls, and especially in the first few weeks, you'll be expected to socialise by going out for drinks and such. Not many people - including vegans - realise that a lot of alcohol has animal by-products. So if the flat is wanting to do cocktails you may have to (nicely) explain. But a way around this would to be have a good stash of your own alcohol (which you're willing to share) or be the person who offers to go buy what is needed so you can check labels. 

- Join the vegetarian or vegan society (or start one!)
Abertay was a tiny university that lacked quite a few of the student societies which the bigger universities have. Me and my friend did try and start a vegetarian society but given that we were both already trying to run other societies (and I was in fourth year and really should have had my nose in a book) it never took off. Maybe you'll be more lucky, because it'll give you a way to meet other veggies (and maybe future flatmates!). 

- Buy this cookbook
It's my favourite one of all time. You can thank me later.

Did you live in halls as a vegan or vegetarian? What was your experience? 

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morag | mo adore
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  1. This is such an interesting read! I am vegetarian, although I cook mostly vegan and would say I am vegan at home and vegetarian when I go out ;) I lived in a student accomodation in France the last year and it was alright I guess. Of course, it is never as nice as in a flat you share with only two or three more people, but I didn't have any trouble. However, I heard a lot of those typical comments like "what do you even eat?", but being vegetarian for 9 years, I am quite used to that now.
    I think you need a thick skin and try not to be offended every time someone says something stupid or even insulting. A lot of the time, it is just because they don't understand this whole vegetarian/vegan thing, so explaining nicely (!) always helps! :)
    Patti www.shiftingtales.com

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