January 27th, 2015
Starting University brought with it a lot of excitement and opportunities, as well as a lot of fears. Would I make friends, how hard would my course be, how am I going to fend for myself? I gathered I shared these worries with 99% of other students starting with me, but I was also worrying about how being teetotal would affect my University experience.
I knew from the media, other people’s experiences and just general knowledge that alcohol was a big part of University life, especially Freshers, but I don’t think I’d quite realised the extent of this. This was reaffirmed when I was at the Fresher’s Ball, the last big event of Fresher’s, and I told someone that I didn’t drink, and was met with a look of total confusion and even distaste. They seemed totally perplexed and probed me for a reason to explain this seemingly ‘rare’ profession. My fears of being judged reappeared, and being one of the only sober people in a room full of very intoxicated students was definitely a real eye-opener.
Thankfully, before coming to Uni, I’d got in touch with a group of people who also didn’t want to always go clubbing/drinking but still wanted to socialise and meet new people. During Freshers we went to bars, watched live music and went shopping. This was such a relief, as none of us had realised we weren’t alone with this, but it made me quite frustrated, as we’d done this off our own backs, and made quite a stand in doing so, rather than it being something promoted and encouraged by the University. Nearly everything we’d heard about Fresher’s Week was all about the wristband that got you into a week of partying, discounted drinks and chips to eat while recovering from a hangover.
Hearing tales of crazy initiations, walking past students too drunk to stand up, and helping to clear up my housemate’s vomit, I realised that there really should be more to Freshers’ week, and Uni, than this. I am fortunate in the sense that my friends accept my teetotal ways, but I know many other people found themselves under a lot of pressure to conform to the drinking culture during this week. It seemed to be the time to make a ‘good’ first impression on your peers and to let your hair down before 3/4 years of hard work, which in reality, shouldn’t need alcohol involved to be achievable.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not berating people who enjoy going out and getting drunk, but I don’t think it should be seen and promoted as the only way to have fun. What could have been a week of exploring a new city, making memories with new friends, and preparing for the start of studies, for many resulted in an empty bank account, a sore head, and a blur of memories they’d rather forget.
*All views expressed in this article are the author’s, and do not necessarily represent the views of ‘It’s the Drink Talking’ or of Alcohol Concern.