From as early as I can remember, I was fascinated with any animal, from giraffes to killer whales to pangolins. I loved going to zoos and aquariums, spending hours in awe over all the wildlife right in front of me.
As I got older, I found a whole new side to the animal world: the abusive side. I watched “Whale Wars” on Animal Planet daily, wondering how people could easily kill such gentle creatures. My love of animals slowly warped into guilt and sadness. News of poaching, deaths at zoos and aquariums, game hunting and inhumane industry action added more weight to my shoulders.
This brought me to a dilemma: How could I, someone not even 20 years old, save abused and endangered animals from the evils of humanity? Lots of people, activists and critics alike, believe it impossible to truly change the industries. But while as a college student I may not have the time and capacity to take down all of those who abuse and kill animals, I can start small. That’s where vegetarianism comes to play.
As a vegetarian, I’ve experienced some ups and downs—limitations on menus, problems with orders or lack of options. Despite some of the changes I’ve had to make, I’ve experimented with some crazy ingredients and learned to love a whole new type of cuisine.
Why Vegetarianism in College Works
Dining Hall Options
Going to college is amazing for vegetarians and vegans. The administration and food services know to prepare for all types of dietary preferences and restrictions.
Temple’s dining halls have salad bars, vegetarian options and vegan stations. I never get worried when I go to lunch or dinner on campus, because I know they accommodate for my dietary restriction. When I’m home, I sometimes feel like a burden. My mom has to buy different food at slightly higher prices just for me.
Freedom to Buy Your Own Food
I like that at college, I can buy my food and prepare meals just for myself without feeling guilty. I have a new obsession with tempeh and tofu, one that would have never been discovered if I didn’t go to college. Without the different types of options on menus or brands in the grocery stores that aren’t available at home, I probably couldn’t continue to live as a vegetarian.
College Towns with Vegetarian Restaurants
I frequently feel food-related anxiety at home. Like any family, mine often goes to restaurants when we don’t have time to cook or we want to try something yummy. This brings a whole other level of worry to my plate—I have to make sure we go to a spot that isn’t meat heaven.
Philadelphia, home to Temple University, has many spots scattered across the city that serve up tasty vegetarian and vegan only food. I love to look up different vegetarian spots and go to a new one every once and a while. Not only do I explore more parts of a city at my fingertips but also, I can experiment. Philly has tons of Chinese, Italian and modern places that I discovered.
How My Wallet Feels
On the flip side, cities tend to be expensive and that really limits anyone with specific diets. For some reason, vegetarian cuisine and ingredients usually cost more than other types of food.
Though I love to experiment with what I eat, I don’t get to go to new restaurants every day. I have to be more in tune with what I spend and how much I need to save.
When you’re at college, you are the person in charge. Your mom and dad don’t live with you, in most cases, so you have to take charge of your wallet. Your usual lifestyle choices can’t always transfer over from home because of the price.
I’ve learned from college that what you need and what you want are completely different. While at the grocery store I occasionally treat myself to some new, expensive foods. But I don’t do it every day.
I recommend stocking up on vegetables and dry foods that you can get for cheap at local markets that cost a lot more at pricey stores in the city. You’ll save money for later when you want to try something a little out-of-budget. Also, the city has tons of vibrant restaurants and spots that cater to vegetarian and vegan options, not just the big names. Don’t go to the ones in popular or expensive areas, even if everyone raves about them. Find the eccentric or small corner stores that have a better price and taste.
More Acceptance from Peers
Colleges tend to attract a crowd of progressive and accepting people. Vegetarianism and veganism has quite a popular following at Temple and it makes me feel welcome. I get little to no questions about why I chose this lifestyle, which is refreshing.
At college, I feel like I can make an impact on others when it comes to not eating meat. Many students and friends have asked me, “Do you feel healthier?” and “Should I try it?” They regard vegetarianism as a positive and life-changing experience. No one questions why I do it. They wonder if they can, too.
It’s great to hear the multiple “I wish I could do that” from others. I’ve always wanted to help the environment and its wildlife population in every aspect I can. When people wonder if they can do it as well, I tell them the same thing: You can be vegetarian or vegan with determination and dedication.
And the best place to start? College.