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Student Drinking: Is it Really Worth It?

As a non-drinker I think it’s safe to say that my university experience has been relatively unique. At a time when teetotalism among students is supposedly on the rise, it is clear that drinking still plays a predominant part in university life. Many a student will go on a night out having had a few drinks, return in the early hours of the morning and regret it as they sit in lectures hungover the following morning. That’s just normal, right?

And yet to someone who has been sober their entire life, this does not seem normal at all. Yes, it’s fun when you’re drunk and yes, it’s a laugh when you’re with your friends but I can’t help thinking that this student drinking culture is pretty miserable. I have attended ‘prinks’ sober and gone to a nightclub sober and found that, without the alcohol, a classic student night out is actually pretty unpleasant. Ultimately, if you take away the humorous side of drinking, what you are usually left with is people getting drunk in a room beforehand and then dancing with a load of people who have little spatial awareness. Students seem to drink to make the best of what is, essentially, a bad situation. Surely it’s far from good that alcohol changes people’s perspectives in this way.

For many, university is about breaking free from the mould shaped by their parents and fully embracing the drinking culture that goes alongside this. It’s about losing all your inhibitions and living in the present. But does it ever get to the point when students are unable to ‘let loose’ when they’re sober? Can the student drinking culture become toxic?

Having spoken to relatives about their lives as students, it’s clear that student life has changed dramatically. Gone are the days when you would turn up to a disco or club sober with your friends and just dance. Now, pre-drinking is a necessity before ever going out and maybe social media has something to do with this. I wonder whether students in particular use alcohol as a way of overcoming their insecurities in order to express themselves freely and whether there is in fact a deeper meaning behind why there is such a strong drinking culture at universities.

And then of course there’s the not-so-nice effects of alcohol; saying things you wouldn’t normally say, throwing up, the slurring of words, the vulnerability, feeling awful the next day. Seeing my friends barely able to speak, let alone walk, all for the sake of a night out just doesn’t seem right. It’s difficult to understand why students enjoy drinking so much if, after having one too many, they essentially become incapacitated. It’s all well and good if you have funny stories to tell at the end of it but I personally would rather be in control of my own body and retain at least a bit of my dignity.

So student drinking: is it worth it? Personally, I think not. Skipping meals as an easier means of feeling the effects of alcohol and spending student loans on nights out seems way too big a price to pay for a few hours of fun.

Alice Howick

Bristol '21

4th year German student at the University of Bristol
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