I guess I have never been that into drinking alcohol. Of course, when I was a teenager, I was intrigued by it and I used to steal beer from the back of my Dad’s cupboard. But I never really went out partying.
Before coming to university, I imagined it would be all drinking and parties and drugs. There’s a culture in our society that revolves around alcohol and partying, especially in young people and the LGBT community.
I started out the year drinking. I was newly 18 and excited about being able to buy alcohol and cigarettes. During freshers’ week I went to flat parties, SU parties, clubs… the whole ‘student experience’. My first night after I moved to university I went out with some of my new course mates. As it was maybe the second party I’d ever been to, I wound up very drunk. It took me two hours of wandering to find my way back to my flat - a mere half a mile away.
Safe to say that was not my finest moment. I’m not even friends with any of the people I met that night. A few days later I went to a glow rave at the SU bar with my flatmates, we shared drinks, got to know each other, danced. I threw up, a fair amount, and was dragged home by my flatmates.
So freshers’ week, for me at least, was very much about drinking. But it was also about making friends. If you don’t drink there will be plenty of events going on that you can get involved in and meet new people. I joined a few societies at the start of the year just to try them out, and found some great new hobbies. I joined the drama society and have made some of my best friends through this. Drama people are always welcoming and friendly!
As the year marched on, alcohol stopped making me feel good. Instead, it started making me feel sick. Eventually, I couldn’t have a sip of alcohol without a chill going through me. I didn’t decide to just stop drinking. At first I started only drinking on nights out. We went to a few clubs, and I found I was wasting too much money on drinks that didn’t make me happy.
So I started only having a drink at the pub with my friends. I managed to keep up with that for a while but eventually it became tedious. I found I much preferred to have a soft drink and actually enjoy myself than feel obliged to drink something I don’t like.
My first year at university is now over. Trust me, if you’re worried about alcohol affecting your social life at university, please know that it doesn’t have to. It is not all about drinking, it’s about discovering who you are and who you want to be. You will still have loads of fun and make plenty of friends - I made most of mine in classes and societies. University is a place for growth, development and self-discovery, not just partying.