This is Why You Listen to Your Parents, Eat Salad, and Get a Flu Shot

SaladAs you get closer and closer to leaving home and embarking on your first year in college, you’re going to hear more and more advice from your parents about what to do and what not to do once September rolls around. If you’re anything like I was at the age of 17, you’ll reassure your parents with a couple of nods, and then completely forget what they said. (You, of course, have more important things to do, like checking Kim Kardashian’s latest tweets).

To be fair, parents do tend to give an overwhelming amount of advice, especially when their little girl or boy is leaving the nest, so it can be hard to know what advice is worth listening to, and what’s just your parents’ anxieties speaking. As someone who’s been through college and who has chatty parents who still swamp me with advice every time I call home, here’s my two cents: if nothing else, pay attention to your parents’ advice about how to stay healthy and avoid falling sick in college.

I was very healthy as a child and teenager (never had the chicken pox, never missed class during flu season, ran track every day, etc.) so during my first two years of college when my mom would call me up to remind me to eat my greens, get a good night’s sleep, get my flu shot in November, and on and on, I didn’t take her very seriously. Unfortunately, I had to learn from experience: it was only after I had caught the flu both freshman and sophomore year, suffered from a month of insomnia, and caught mono (which was so debilitating that I had to drop classes and stop working out for three months), that I began to listen to my parents.

What I didn’t initially understand was that I was now living in a very different environment than the California suburbs I’d grown up in. Instead of eating the vegetables my mom would have cooked every evening, I was eating pizza and bagels (the only edible food in my school’s cafeteria); instead of quietly studying in my bedroom and going to sleep by midnight, I hanging out in the dorm common room until 4AM; instead of living with my parents and two sisters, I was living around hundreds of other students who, like me, stayed up late and ate poorly.

Because college students, especially freshman and sophomores, tend to live in close quarters, you can imagine what happens when one student gets the flu; half of the students in his or her hallway get it too.

You don’t know it yet, but you’re going to have so many awesome and profound experiences in college that are going to shape who you become as an adult. One of those experiences is learning how to take care of yourself, a large part of which involves heeding good advice. So, when your parents give you tips on how to get your daily greens and a healthy night’s sleep while juggling a full college schedule, put down your phone and listen up! And no matter how busy you are, get that flu shot!

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By Rita Pearson