It seems that every other week newspapers are filled with tragic stories of students who have died young as a result of alcohol consumption. Hospitalization from spiked drinks, drinking excessively or simply drinking irresponsibly are an even more common occurrence.
When did university lifestyle become affiliated with this party culture?
Once upon a time, going to university meant working hard, extending your education and earning your degree. Social lives existed then, of course, but they were not the prime reason of pursuing higher education.
Many newcomers entering a university will be fully aware of the week to come; freshers week. Famed for clubbing, drinking, partying and generally ensuring that the freshers have a wild and enjoyable time. As the Student Union is often behind the activities and evenings arranged, you can be sure that every night of the week there will be some form of alcohol fuelled entertainment.
For the majority of students, this is exactly what’s expected and wanted; booze, loud music, the chance to mingle with other freshers, and to get their university social life officially started.
But there are more students than you’d think who want no part in this clubbing culture at all.
It is very easy to bend under peer pressure and be swayed into going places, and doing things which you don’t want to, in the first few weeks of university. After all, you’re new, you’re getting your bearings and you want to fit in. Nobody wants to sound like a kill joy.
But there is no reason what so ever why you should feel pressured to drink, club or do anything out of your comfort zone – simply because it fits the student expectation.
Contrary to popular belief, choosing not to drink does not mean you are isolating yourself or alienating the people around you. You’re allowed to have your own stance, and if you don’t want to have alcohol, then don’t; nobody will hassle you, nobody will care.
There are plenty of alternative ways to get the fullest university experience, and the fullest freshers experience without booze or clubs involved. It varies from university to university, but here are just a few suggestions worth checking out;
Any Student Union worth their salt will have a whole array of activities during freshers which don’t revolve around the club scene. Check their website for updates and information – often there will be plays, casual get togethers, and other forms of entertainment. During my freshers week I went to a hypnotist show which the Student Union had set up. To this date it’s one of my fondest memories of university, and it was by far the best freshers event for me.
Go to your freshers fayre and join some societies. They’re often cheap to join, and if you’re unsure, many hold free taster sessions to give you an idea of what they’re about. It is far easier to make good friends and hold real conversations in this kind of environment. An environment where you’re already sharing a hobby and can actually hear one another without loud base music pumping over every other word.
If it’s just about spending time with friends, or expanding on new friendships. Arrange a cinema trip; it’s simple but so effective. You don’t have to talk for a couple of hours, and then afterwards you’ve instantly got a nice safe topic to discuss. For those of you who love films, invest in a Cineworld unlimited card, for £15.99 (or £17.99 in London) a month, you can see as many films as you like. Which saves a bundle if you go more than three times a month- and that is easily done.
Find out about your local theatre. Bigger cities will have a handful to choose from, all offering a selection different arts- opera, ballet, comedy, theatre. Give something new a go, student discounts are often available.
Finally, invest time in sourcing your local café. Like coffee? So do your flatmates?/course mates?/ fellow freshers? Great! If not, order a Pepsi. You can bond with new friends over non-alcoholic drinks too, and that should never be overlooked.
There are so many fun and fantastic things to do out there which don’t involve alcohol, drugs, sticky floored night clubs, or club scenes of any kind. They’re a google search away.
On a final, personal note, I know that freshers week can be unnerving. It’s a hard adjustment; for many, you will be in a completely new setting, and on your own without family support for the first time. Alcohol might sound like a comfort-inducing solution, but for me it sounded like a nightmare; alcohol + strange new setting + knowing no one, is not a good mix.
I didn’t want to drink alcohol, so I didn’t . I thought that this would make me stick out like a sore thumb. But it didn’t.
Not once, throughout my freshers week, or my first year at university did anyone try to pressure me into drinking something I didn’t want too. Not once.
So don’t feel like drinking booze is expected; people won’t judge you poorly for turning it down. They’ll respect you for it.