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Drinking culture at university is exclusionary and needs to stop


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The week commencing Monday 14th November 2016 is Alcohol Awareness Week. As all students know, alcohol consumption is a big part of the student lifestyle at university, but in my experience, it can get a bit too much.

I drink alcohol and I have been drinking since I turned 18 – the legal age to purchase alcohol in the UK. I have tried alcohol previously – usually at family events so not as part of a teenage experimental phase – but those moments were rare. From a young age I decided that I would only ‘properly’ start drinking from the age of 18, because I wanted to be legally old enough to purchase alcohol before consuming it.

Since the legal age, I have been drinking on occasion and in moderation. I don’t like to consume a lot of alcohol and I could easily forego it. I rarely buy alcohol for the house, and if I could drive I would not consume an alcohol drink at all, regardless of the so-called units and driving limits.

When I went away to university less than two months before turning 20, that’s when I started to encounter the drinking culture. I was always aware of it – alongside the party lifestyle – but I had never experienced it, because none of my friends drink (for religious and cultural reasons) and I would never have been interested in that sort of thing anyway.

In my opinion, I find that the drinking culture at university can be extremely overwhelming and there is a huge pressure to get drunk every single night. If you don’t drink or, like myself – you don’t drink much, then there is this perception that there is something wrong with you and some people assume that you are boring, socially-awkward and unable to have fun. That’s such a narrow-minded view to possess because you can have fun and socialise without having to get yourself drunk every night!

I guess it is a part of the clubbing/party lifestyle. You get more ‘respect’ if you go out every night and get yourself in such a drunk state, but if you choose be a bit sensible and reserved and you drink less, then you are automatically assumed to be weird. It’s strange logic to me.

At university I felt as though I was constantly judged. I was judged for disliking the clubbing/party lifestyle, even though it wasn’t for me and it did not suit me at all. I was judged for choosing to stay in and study over a night out with my flatmates/housemates, most of whom I was not getting along with (I don’t socialise with people I don’t like anyway.) I was judged for staying true to myself instead of allowing myself to be moulded into something I wasn’t by anyone else. Most of all, I was judged for not drinking more, or the same as everyone else.

Through my university experience I have noticed that the “alcohol=fun” mentality is quite powerful and for those who don’t drink and/or are not so strong-minded it can be extremely pressuring. It’s about time that students at university embraced the fact that not everyone drinks, and not everyone drinks to get drunk or to fit in. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to consuming alcohol, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

There are numerous campaigns in place in order to raise awareness of the effects of heavy drinking. However, there should be more campaigns put in place in order to raise awareness regarding the pressure to drink at university, and to encourage people on learning how to be assertive in the face of pressure.

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