University is to alcohol what an essay is to an all-nighter: undoubtedly at some point in your student life the two will come together, and no one will be able to stop it from getting messy. Even for those of you who prefer to party lightly on a sugar high of coke and lemonade, a time will come to face the drinking question. Alcohol has become a normal part of student life; being wildly drunk in your first year is practically ‘a rite of passage’ and the less said on Freshers’ Week the better. It’s a story to tell, a laugh to be had, and an experience to share. Of course, I’m leaving out the terms and conditions of the morning-after-headache, and the fear of checking Facebook for dubious photos. But hey, that’s after all the fun you have.
The problem is though, alcohol and university have become so tightly wedged together they’re practically one and the same. For many students, it’s the first suggestion made when discussing what to do on a free evening (which do happen every so often). ‘Let’s get wasted!’, ‘Want to go to the pub?’, and ‘I can bring some wine’ are all phrases which become common to the average student. Drinking is an activity that has been ingrained into the idea of socialising. You may not even have noticed it happening, but the availability of alcohol is rarely absent from a social gathering.
However, that’s not to say alcohol is all that student life centres around, even if it can start to look that way. Drinking is easy, it can be cheap depending on how you split your costs, and it often precedes another activity – the phenomena of ‘prinks’. That doesn’t make it a necessary ingredient for a good time though. A bit of planning, or just some courage to face the night sober, are all it can take to have a night free of alcohol. And I promise you, it really can turn out more fun.
It’s become a rare thing to see a sober human enter a club of their own free will. I testify to this because I’ve been that rarity, and will be again. Yes, you read it right. Sometimes I go clubbing completely sober. And yes, I still enjoy my night.
I know how shocking this can be to some students. It can be quite entertaining to see the look of puzzlement on my friends’ faces when I admit to still having fun when sober on a night-out. To me, a club is where I can release a week’s worth of pent up energy, as I’m not sure the people on my staircase would be too fussed if there were heavy bass-lines blaring from my room as I jumped up and down repeatedly. I genuinely like to go out and dance. Bizarre as that is, it’s completely true. Even more bizarre is how weird sober clubbing, and actually enjoying it, is considered.
I’ve been at clubs sober, and I’ve been at clubs drunk. All it takes is some confidence to dance and sing like you just don’t care (and when you think about it who’s going to be looking?), and that feeling alone is worth every minute. I tell you what, I dare you to try it. If nothing else, at least you’ll be the one holding the hilariously embarrassing photos next morning.
A night in with friends, when you just can’t be bothered to step outside college, is something every student needs at least once a week. University is stressful, and I personally don’t sleep like a normal human being until I arrive back home during vacation. Chill time is brilliant.
It’s also likely that someone will offer to bring round a bottle of wine, or some cider they have in their room, and this can lead to a relaxing evening of indie music and drinking with friends. After a frantic day of tutorials and avoided lectures, it’s a great way to wind down. Once you realise that other options are also open to you though, it makes those nights when you do fancy a drink far less commonplace. It will get boring after the third week in a row.
Second term I’ve found to be far better for organising hang outs. The work-hard, play-hard mentality of Michaelmas, sandwiched as it is between the summer holiday and Christmas, is exhausting. In Hilary, the short winter days and impending deadlines leave everyone less inclined to bother with copious amounts of alcohol. You just don’t have the energy to begin with. Therefore, don’t try and force it. Meet up, watch a film, order some pizza, and save the alcohol for a night you know you’ll be able to stay awake.
Drinking socially has gone from being the exception of special occasions and celebrations, to the rule of Friday, Saturday and whichever others day of the week you fancy. Alcohol is tightly linked with university life, and the expectation of it being a fundamental part of social gatherings is unlikely to change. A night is what you make it however. Choose to be sober, or choose to drink: just don’t let the evening decide for you.