Recently, I’ve been speaking to my friends about drinking culture at university. At first, I thought it meant feeling pressure to drink because you’re at Uni. After talking and doing some more reading, I’ve realised it’s a much, much more complex issue.
For this post, I want to discuss my views and experiences of drinking culture at university, as well as those of my friends, who are all students. Although many articles are looking at this from the outside in, I feel like I’m right in the middle of it. I’m going to go through some bullet points that I think are the most important aspects of this issue.
- Feeling pressured to drink – Myself and my friends have never felt a pressure to drink whilst at University. I’ve felt then generally, everyone respects the choices of others. However, another of my friends, whilst not feeling pressured, thinks that not drinking can make you feel isolated. I find this so interesting as I personally would never judge someone if they didn’t want to drink, or go on a night out, but I can see how this would make someone feel left out, perhaps. This leads me on to the next point.
- FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. I have most definitely felt this. I remember during freshers, I had work to do so I missed out on a bar crawl. I was sat in my room wishing I could be there. Or I was too tired and didn’t feel like drinking, so I didn’t go out that night. The next day, I felt like I had missed out on so much. Alcohol is the centre of so many social events at Uni, making it a whole culture in itself, and it creates a sense on missing out. Also, when speaking to one my friends, he felt that this feeling has taken away from the purpose of Uni which is to learn – it puts more emphasis on going out as if, for many, it is the main reason for going to Uni. I wouldn’t say I completely agree with this. I think that having fun and studying are all part of the whole university experience. However, I do see where he’s coming from.
- Not drinking before – Before Uni, I had experienced alcohol a bit, mostly within my own home, sometimes at parties. So, when I got to Uni, it was less of a novelty. In fact, when I first got to Uni, I drank a lot less than I do now. I have, though, got some friends that barely touched alcohol before Uni. I’d say that as the drinking culture is so intense, this led to them drinking a lot in a short space of time and not being sure of how to handle it. Luckily, nothing bad has happened but I think the expectation of drinking at Uni can be quite dangerous if someone is going in with no experience of alcohol.
- Pre-Drinks and Drinking Games – This was something I hadn’t really thought of as being part of drinking culture until I read an article in the Independent. Since I started Uni, pre-drinks and drinking games have been a staple, and sometimes the best part, of a night out. But when you really look at it, the sole purpose is to consume a lot of alcohol before actually going out. And when we play drinking games, its about getting people to drink as much as possible. I wouldn’t say its healthy practice but I don’t know if I would consider it a problem? In the previously mentioned article, it is stated that some people don’t eat in the evenings before drinking as it helps to get drunk quicker. I have friends that have done this and it again makes me question the whole culture.
- Money – Drinking and going out is such a huge part of Uni but there is a huge financial drawback – its expensive! There’s the pre-drinks drinks, club/bar entry fee, drinks at a club, taxi fares. When this is more than once a week, which it is very likely to be for some students, this can run up quite a large cost! A lot of people I know, myself included, know someone who is in quite a bit of debt because of drinking. And again. this correlates with FOMO; even if you don’t have the money, you don’t want to miss out. Luckily, this hasn’t happened to me but I can see how it could.
- Sport societies – I mean, this could probs be classed as a whole other culture. But on the drinking side, I went to one sport social during freshers and whilst I continued to play the sport, I wasn’t keen on the socials. It was very alcohol based and even though, after much persuasion, they didn’t make you drink if you absolutely didn’t want to, it felt as though they labelled you as boring because of it. This may be very subjective to my experience, but I’ve heard of similar, and worse, things happening in sport societies. I think for this point, freshers is such an impressionable time and this is where drinking culture is very much enforced, especially through societies.
After writing this, I still don’t know how I feel, or if I completely understand drinking culture. Perhaps this is became I’m so immersed within it. However, on the one hand, I think its part of student life, I’ve had some of the best times of first year whilst drinking and, in my case, its in moderation so surely its not that bad? But on the other, I understand that it is a problem at universities and the drinking culture can have, and has had, a negative effect on a lot of people.
So, I think this is something I’m going to have to do some more research into. I honestly found it so interesting. Something I thought was a simple statement is actually so complex and really quite a problem at universities.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!
p.s I do have some non-university based posts planned – just need to wait for someone to help with pictures!