It would be hard to deny that university has a drinking culture. But, like a growing number of students, I choose not to drink. At home I had never even been out to a nightclub, it isn’t really my scene.
When I got to uni, my flatmates were (unsurprisingly) surprised by my choice not to drink and were curious to know why. I’ve never been particularly self-conscious about my decision, but to be put on the spot I felt like I needed to defend myself.
Have you found yourself in a similar situation?
Here are two simple things that helped me settle in and belong at university as a teetotal student.
The first two nights in student halls were difficult as my flatmates would only come together for nights out and pre-drinks. I have no problem with other people drinking, but as a non drinker I felt isolated. So as freshers’ week progressed, I spent increasing time with flatmates and joined them when I felt comfortable to do so. In the end we had an amazing week - we ordered pizza, went to a pub quiz, and cooked meals together.
Since freshers’ week ended I have made sure to meet up and join in with flatmates for non- or low-alcohol activities. We’ve had some great times taking late-night trips to the shops for cake and playing card games into the early hours.
It’s easy to hide yourself away when you feel like you don’t fit in but, by socialising with flatmates in the evenings and at meal times, I’ve been able to maintain good relationships without venturing (and paying entry fee) into busy nightclubs.
Societies are a great way to meet new people with similar interests. I visited the societies fair during freshers’ week to see just what was on offer. I had some ideas about what I wanted to sign up for, but also checked out the groups I hadn’t heard of or considered.
That’s how I ended up at a taster session for drama, something I’d never done before but had always been interested in. I was greeted by a group of friendly and supportive people and even though I had been nervous to begin with, it didn’t last long.
Societies have given me the opportunity to meet loads of different people, from fellow first years to people in their mid 30s - all meeting together over a shared love for theatre. I couldn’t recommend a better way to meet different people from your university community.
My choice not to drink has had little impact on my social life. If you are in the same boat, try not to worry about ‘fitting in’ with fellow students. I have met some great people both on my course and in societies, away from the presence of alcohol.
My surprised flatmates weren’t being judgemental - they were just interested. They were still quick to invite me on nights out if and when I wanted to join them. I didn’t experience any peer pressure from my friends or flatmates, but the university culture can make you feel as though you need to drink to fit in. You don’t.
Remember too, there are other people around you in the same position. You don’t need to put yourself in an uncomfortable position just to blend in with your peers. If I could offer even a little piece of advice, it would be to simply take part, get involved, and mostly importantly be yourself.