Katherine Skippon wants you to know that it’s okay if you don’t want to spend your first year of university drunk all the time…
The first few weeks of university can feel like a whirlwind of bar crawls, dodgy shots, take-aways and empty vodka bottles. Some people love it, some people enjoy it but don’t mind resting their weary bones as it comes to an end and some people hate it. The pressure to ‘go out and have fun!’ whilst you’re young and a student can seem relentless. This is the time you should be out on week nights, drinking more to get over your hangovers and updating your cover photo to various cool and edgy group pictures of ‘young people having fun’.
But the pressure makes it hard for people who don’t like to go clubbing/drinking – the expectation from everyone that this is what you’ll do for the next 3 years. It’s the endless ‘typical student’ jokes you hear about coming to lectures hungover, drilled into you by family, friends and the lecturers themselves. Or, the long list of nights out happening in the week whose advertisements make it seem like you’re the only one that might not fancy it. These can make you feel like an ‘other’ to normal student life, which is the last thing you want when you’re adjusting to a new city and new people.
Although many universities offer ‘alternative fresher’s weeks’ and non-alcoholic events, a general on campus drinking culture can drown these out. This culture pervades not only student halls, and hungover 9am lecture theatres, but also sports clubs and societies who hold numerous bar crawls and dreaded initiation ceremonies. It’s possible, but very difficult, to escape the drinking ethos contained within student communities.
There are plenty of reasons you might not want to go out, get drunk and party, each as perfectly legitimate as the last. It might be as deep and important as a drinking problem, a fear of being out late or equally it you might just not like it all that much. Not everyone loves drinking – more and more young people are choosing to party sober. Nights out can make you feel lazy, tired and out of control of what you do during the day, some people can cope very well with that feeling, and others don’t like it. If your explanation for not going on a night out is as simple as ‘I just don’t want to’ then that explanation is perfectly valid too.
However it’s easy to get caught up in feeling as though you’re somehow ‘different’ in a bad way for not enjoying nights out. There are plenty of adjectives available to sum up how you might view yourself, the most accurate is simply that you’re ‘boring’. There are no wild stories to tell, no funny pictures of you and all of your drunken friends. Going to bed at 10pm and waking up at 8 or 9 just doesn’t make for an exciting morning-after tale, but you’d be in a much better place to tell a great story given that you’re not hanging. Whilst you sit at home, or enjoy a meal out and cinema date with your friends, everyone else looks as though they’re the best time of their lives. Social media makes FOMO feel inevitable, even when you know you wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway. The feeling of being torn between the pressure to go out, and not really wanting too can feel difficult to speak about – so many younger people don’t feel the same way, and
It can be hard to wrestle with these feelings and the lightning speed at which we go from youthful student to real life adult, but as always, the best thing to do is to be true to yourself. Listen to yourself and learn when to push yourself into being social, for example going to the first venue of a bar crawl at 8pm, and coming home at 10pm; but equally know that it’s okay not go on nights out if they aren’t your thing. They don’t make you boring, you aren’t wasting your youth. You’re just spending it being content doing what you’d like to, not what other people want you too.
So a definitive guide to being a boring university student: do it! Do what you want regardless of how ‘boring’ it may seem compared to your universities cheerleading initiations, or whatever other crazy nights out are planned for that week. The first few weeks can feel particularly overwhelming as people search for liquid courage to make some fast friends, but the drinking culture calms down as you move through your time at University. You fall in with a group of people you like, and start doing other things. Your individual happiness is more important than the existing pressure to go out and have fun whilst you’re at it. No one is boring if they’re interested in something, so do exactly what you want with your free time. A cup of tea is much nicer than a jaeger bomb anyway. Remember that there are plenty of other students who aren’t into the clubbing scene, and you aren’t alone in feeling like the only student who doesn’t essentially camp in the SU club at weekends.
Finally, and importantly, our youth is not meant to be survived but to be lived. To truly take advantage of it is to do exactly what makes us happy and not much else. If that is parties, drinking, staying out until sunrise and making hilarious, drunken memories, that’s amazing; if it’s those nights in to yourself watching bad TV, or the catch ups with friends over coffee instead of tequila, that’s equally valid.
There is no point in wasting away your youth miserable in a club you hate, with people you prefer in the daytime.
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Illustration: Sophia Maria