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Sober students aren't boring, we just need better events


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A recent National Union of Students survey has found that students are drinking far less alcohol on average, and universities really need to start catering to sobriety better.

Drinking beer

With Fresher's Week finally over at the majority of UK universities, a week that is dominated by drinking games, clubbing and hangovers has been brought to a halt by the reality of our tight student loans and the need for a good degree. 

However, despite the stereotype of university being a blur of drunken memories, a recent study by the NUS has shown that students are drinking less alcohol, with 21% of students being completely alcohol-free.

This change in behaviour brings with it a huge demand for more diversity within social activities both during Freshers' Week and beyond. 

Other than a few welcome week lectures and the Freshers' Fair, universities tend to leave the daytime completely free during Fresher's Week in order for students to recover from the night before.

Indeed, university culture and drinking culture have become so closely intertwined that it can often feel like it is impossible to be part of one and not the other, and this simply needs to change. 

Classifying a good night as one where you end up in hospital is a wildly unhealthy norm, even for those that enjoy drinking alcohol.

Ultimately, the whole tradition needs to be toned down so that it is no longer promoting an extreme lifestyle of binge drinking which could potentially lead to addiction. 

Personally, I've just finished my second Fresher's Week sober.

Before university I had never drunk a drop of alcohol in my life; I didn't know what a VK was, and ring of fire seemed like a terrifying ritual from the dark ages.

Last year I contacted my university asking if there were any non-alcohol focused events that I could go to and all they could offer me was a tea and coffee gathering or a pub quiz.

Unsurprisingly, I ended up barely leaving my room.

I had nothing to do, no one to do it with, and no idea where anything in this new city was.

I actually resented Fresher's Week and everything it stood for by the end of it, but still refused to give in to the pressure of drinking just to fit in. 

Throughout the year I could feel my willpower weakening and, although no one ever directly pushed me into having a drink, the whole vernacular surrounding university made me consider it multiple times.

There were frequent conversations about drinking games, drunken mistakes, and horrifying hangovers where all I could do was sit there and nod along, pretending I knew what they were talking about, simply because I was a Fresher and needed some friends.

However, my sober student experience has not been completely negative.

The closer I got with the people on my course, the more adventurous I became; I started clubbing towards the end of first year completely sober and loved every second of it.

As long as you've got good people around you and are listening to good music, having the space to dance outrageously and sing out of tune is my idea of paradise.

Furthermore, my university also held their first colour run this Fresher's Week, which was exactly the kind of non-alcoholic event I had been yearning for the previous year.

I'll admit, I have given in to the drinking pressure a little but still have never had more than two drinks in one night.

This is not surprising as the NUS study also revealed that 70% of students drink alcohol just to fit in with their peers.

Surely we need to start relieving this pressure felt by students to get smashed on a regular basis, and break down the idea that you need to have alcohol in order to have a good time?

Even if universities simply held a few sober nights out or had a society dedicated to creating alcohol-free events, anything would be an improvement on the current situation.

Just because our unhealthy attitude towards drinking is deeply rooted in the history of our society, it doesn't mean there isn't an issue. 

Ultimately, we need to start getting critical about our drinking habits, so that university can become a more inclusive environment for everyone. 

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