Neither shaken, nor stirred, but still just as cool without the A

 

Starting at a new university and Freshers’ Week is always a nerve-racking time for everyone. Not least because you have a new place, new people to get used to and a mad week to set you up for the three years ahead. Coming to university, for me, is a big step. However, what sets me apart from a lot of other people is that I don’t drink alcohol.

For some people it’s an essential part of getting to know others. After all, everyone says the stupidest things when drunk. Despite this, perhaps in recent years, it has become more acceptable to not follow the crowd in this particular activity.

A considerable number of people that I have spoken to in my first week think that, while they would drink themselves, it’s quite cool that I don’t. Nevertheless, drinking seems to be a problem that, for some, is out of control. Even certain universities have started to acknowledge that this youth drinking culture is a big problem. An article published three years ago by Simon Murphy, a former Guardian writer, pointed out the real health risks of excessive drinking. More recently this March, and article in the Independent questioned the same issue.

As for me, the fact that I have epilepsy (and alcohol increases the chances of having a seizure), is a big factor in why I don’t drink. Despite this condition, myself and I’m sure many others, just don’t see drinking as necessary in order to have a good time.

In fact, the Independent now have a term for people like me. I’m part of Generation Abstemious and proud. It may come as a surprise that when you search on Google about abstaining from drinking at university, more reliable sources and information can be found on this than if you were to search about university drinking culture.

Perhaps, as one article previously pointed out, because so much of Freshers’ Week revolves around drinking — largely down to numerous discounted and cheap offers — it just became the norm to go out and get drunk every night.

To be fair, I found it quite sobering (no pun intended) to find several people in my halls who don’t drink, even if it is because of health reasons. It shows they care more about themselves than just following the crowd.

In fairness, this is still a very small percentage of people, but it’s a good sign, especially for those like me, who were beginning to feel like the odd one out in a world full of drunk students. Despite this small shift, I don’t think there will be any major changes in attitudes towards university drinking culture. It’s something that has, over the years, become an expected feature of university life — just like going to lectures and getting a degree (or if you’re drunk, not going to lectures and failing).

For me, I can only see positives in being the odd one out when it comes to drinking. I think that, while there is no direct correlation, I would do better in my degree if I’m stone-cold sober. It’s better for my health and better for my financial situation. Basically a win-win.

As for everyone else, not drinking should be encouraged and appreciated. Attitudes need to change. We’ve spent years following the norm and the crowd. But if we only follow the crowd, there will be few unique individuals. For me, I think it’s time we did something for ourselves. Why not? It’s not hard to walk the other way.

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