Agony aunt: alcohol and peer pressure at university

I don’t drink alcohol, but all my friends do, and whenever they’re drunk I feel like I’m on the outside. I don’t want to compromise on my beliefs, but I’m also tired of feeling like I’m missing out. Any advice?

Nowadays, there seems to be a common misconception that all students do is drink alcohol and go out clubbing (aside from studying, of course). The important thing to remember is that there are tens of thousands of students at university, all with different experiences and preferences. Whether you have tried drinking alcohol in the past and have decided it isn’t for you, or the lifestyle involved with drinking just doesn’t appeal, you do not need to panic. I, for one, am in the same boat. 

I would like to share with you one of my favourite quotes by Judy Garland: “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” I try and stay as true to this belief as possible, but during Freshers’ week I had the worry that if I didn’t go out, people would think I was boring. With friends constantly asking you if you want get drinks and buy tickets for the next big night out, your head can easily start spinning. 

That’s why peer pressure when it comes to alcohol is one of the most unpleasant forms of the phenomenon. It’s not that you don’t want to have fun with your friends, but must every activity involve alcohol consumption? Even society meetings appear to end with a trip to the pub. Whatever happened to catching up over lunch or organising a day out with friends? 

Without further ado, here is some advice for being yourself without missing the fun:

1) Look for alcohol-free events

When you hear of events through word of mouth, I often find they are for nights out. So, recently, I have made a point of checking the University Union’s website, as they list all the events going on around campus, and you can even put an alcohol-free filter on your search. The chance is that you will meet likeminded people at these events who share your feelings about alcohol. Who knows, these could be the people who become your friends for your entire time at university!

2) Sophisticated drinking

As a means of keeping the alcohol to a minimum, but not missing fun with friends, you can offer an alternative suggestion, such as having a meal out together in the evening. Your friends can have a drink or two if they want, but the environment is much more sophisticated, and there is less chance that they will get absolutely smashed. If they want to continue the night afterwards, that’s fine, and you can go back home and curl up in bed knowing that you’ve had a good time socialising. 

3) Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself

Though you may have to do a little bit of compromising at first, as it’s to be expected that your flatmates or other friends at uni will want to go out drinking at some point, you should not have to completely change who you are or pretend to have fun when you are unhappy. Honestly, if they do not respect your decisions, then they are not very nice people. You should be able to enjoy university no matter who you are. After all, university should be about finding yourself, not losing it.

Megan Harrison

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