Helena Liaka

Eleni-Maria Liaka
5, MBBS
A final year medical student, who enjoys performing arts, meditation and writing

Being Vegan at University

We have all heard of the “freshers 15”- a testament to the absolute chaos some of us inflict upon our minds and bodies when we first leave home. Beginning university as a vegetarian, my diet during that year reverted to the unhealthy and lazy stereotype of carbs and cheese. However, after learning about the wide-ranging harms of the dairy and egg industries, I decided to make the step of becoming vegan. Since then, I’ve learnt a lot about maintaining a vegan and (mostly!) healthy diet while studying.

  • Preparation is key!

Lunch should be the best meal of the day…but it is difficult to find tasty vegan lunches in restaurants, cafes and shops. That’s why half an hour of evening cooking and a leak-proof Tupperware box can save you a lot of trouble! Even if you can’t manage to cook a whole lunch for the next day, quickly frying some tofu, seitan or pulses the night or morning before can take care of your protein source and save you going hungry! You can then supplement your meal by ordering a side; for example, a jacket potato or chips.

  • Eating out

Being a vegan in London provides so much variety in restaurants! A quick google search can provide a crazy amount of information; lists like the following one are all over the internet:

https://www.timeout.com/london/restaurants/the-best-vegan-restaurants-in-london

Some of my personal favourites in the area include The Gallery Café (Bethnal Green), 90 Degree Melt (Stepney), Fed By Water (Kingsland) and Mildred’s (Soho).

There are so many amazing vegan restaurants to choose from, but don’t feel limited to these! Many popular restaurants are accommodating to vegans, so make sure to check menus online beforehand, or give them a quick call to enquire.

(Pro-tip: If you want to impress both your vegan and your “determined carnivore” friends, “Homeslice” in Old Street is a non-vegan pizza joint, but the vegan alternatives they make are OUT OF THIS WORLD.)

  • Try not to get drawn into arguments

We’ve all heard the cliché that we can’t go two minutes without mentioning that we’re vegan…I mean, that’s pretty accurate for me! Our diets and ethical choices do form a large part of our lives, so it’s easy to see why. On top of this, it’s difficult not to get drawn into provocative questionings when being in a new environment around new people, who are all trying to figure out their own identities. One thing I’ve learnt through first-hand experience is that when you’re happily being you and living the lifestyle that fulfils you, you become a positive role model; so you just keep doing your thang!

  • Join QM Vegetarian and Vegan Society

With pot-lucks, events and outings, this is a great way to meet new people who share your lifestyle, and eat great food! Here is the link to the facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/QM-Vegetarian-and-Vegan-Society-310873675763769/

I hope you enjoyed these tips! Happy vegan-ing!

Oh and did I mention…I’m vegan!

It’s OK to not be having fun

“It’s such a doss year!”

“Freshers is so epic!”

“Everyone is so nice!”

These are just some of the phrases I heard both before, and during my first year in medical school.

With freshers’ week fast approaching, I imagine prospective students are starting to feel the fear and excitement that comes with opening a new chapter in one’s life. It’s no wonder; the first year of university is often portrayed as the most instructive and adventurous time in our studies, even in our lives….perhaps that’s why it was so easy for me to feel alone in my unhappiness during this period. Between moving away from home, being dunked head-first into a flurry of confusing lectures, and navigating the foreign social landscape, I felt as if I were caught in the eye of a storm: directionless, isolated and hopeless. It’s hard to know who to listen to during freshers- the second-year who tells you it’s OK to miss lectures? Your friend who says you should start revising a month early? Your specialist lecturers who insist their teaching will be imperative for your future career? How did everyone else have it so together?

This is not meant to put prospective students off. In fact, that time of struggle taught me a lot about being a “grown-up”:

  • Never set your standards (professional and personal) by the apparent certainty of someone else.
  • Never think that the people around you aren’t as scared as you are.
  • Never think that bad times will last.
  • At some point, someone will gossip about you. Move past it and so will everyone else.
  • Friendships happen.

I hope that by writing this, or through my interactions with scared-looking freshers, that I’ve helped pay some of these lessons forward. As for me, the lesson I’ve learned is to always be helpful and gentle to the people around you…especially freshers going through the torture of FunMed!

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