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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wilfrid Laurier chapter.

If you’re anything like me, your first night out to a bar with friends can be incredibly daunting. You don’t know what to drink, how much to drink, how late to stay and the list goes on. I completely understand. I went to a bar with a group of friends for the first time a few weeks ago and when I was thinking rationally about it the next day, I realized I was absolutely unprepared.  

Let me paint you a picture: I’m in my second year of university and it’s my fourth night in a new home. I’m uncomfortable with my new living space, uncomfortable with my new roommates, uncomfortable with the street I’m living on, and overall, there are a lot of new things happening. On top of that, the only friend I made in my first year is living 30 minutes away from me, so when this friend asked me to come out with her and her new roommates to a bar in downtown Waterloo, I jumped at the chance.  

Unfortunately for me, this spontaneous “jumping at the chance” meant my preparedness level was way below the normal standard. There were two sets of pre-gaming (both of which I was unaware would be happening), an Uber ride at 8:30 pm to a place I didn’t know, too many drinks and at the end of it all, an unplanned and, now that I think about it, not very smart, walk home with a guy I’d only ever talked to online.  

Now I’m not writing this to say my first experience was bad. I did get home safe, had an amazing time and I met some new people I’d probably go out with again. I think it’s important to self-reflect on what was and wasn’t a good idea once you’re sober again. As a result of this self-reflection, here are five things you can do to ensure your first night out drinking at a bar is as safe and enjoyable as possible. 

1. Plan a Safe Way to Get Home 

Ensure to make this plan well in advance. I can’t stress this enough when you’ve had way too much to drink your logic goes out the window. The guy you met at the bar who bought you a couple of shots and is asking if you need a ride home? No thank you, goodbye. Of course, you don’t always know if and when you’re going out so making an early plan can be difficult. Honestly, as long as this plan is made before you start drinking (and yes, I’m talking about pre-gaming too!) and with the people, you’re going with, you’re good to go.  

This plan should include who’s going home with who, but keep in mind you don’t all need to leave together, just make sure you aren’t going alone, that you have a rough estimate of when you want to leave (although this can always be subject to change) and how you’re getting home (Uber, Taxi, designated driver, walking, etc.). The most important thing is that you leave with people you know and trust to get you home safe, the same way they’re trusting you! 

2. Figure Out Where You Are Sleeping Well in Advance 

Similar to making a plan to get home, you won’t always have a day or two to spend figuring this out. Just make sure that you have it planned before any drinking takes place as your logic and reasoning are unreliable after a pitcher of sangria and a vodka cran.  

Sometimes, the easiest (and safest) thing to do is to go back to one person’s house and sleep over until the morning. I understand how uncomfortable it may feel to sleep in the same clothes you were drinking in, to not take a shower before sleeping, to not take your makeup off or to not be able to brush your teeth, but it might be even more uncomfortable to be drunk or tipsy (especially if you have anxiety like me) and spending the evening alone. I’ll be the first to tell you, more worry and discomfort happen when you create worst-case scenarios alone rather than if you talk and laugh about scenarios with a friend (because honestly, our minds really overthink sometimes).  

However, I understand there’s comfort in sleeping in your own space. If that’s the case, maybe your place is where people should crash. Just make sure you’ve talked about this with your friends so everyone’s on the same page! 

3. It’s OK to Not Get Drunk 

You might be thinking, “it isn’t everyone going to pressure me to drink”? I promise you, they won’t. If you’ve never actually been drunk (there are still people out there who haven’t drunk, they do exist), getting drunk at a bar may be a little overwhelming especially when it’s a place you’ve never been to before. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to walk away from your first time at a bar drunk.  

I’m not saying don’t drink. You should have a couple of drinks if you want them, but there’s no pressure to be as drunk as everyone around you. Sometimes, being sober enough to make a rational decision is the smartest move you can make. Additionally, it can be hard to know what your limit is so having fewer drinks might help you feel more in control of yourself. 

4. Eat Before You Drink 

Drinking on an empty stomach will cause you to get drunk much faster. Food slows down your body’s ability to process alcohol which in turn allows you to drink a bit more or have a couple of drinks without major side effects. Make sure you eat your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Maybe have a little snack on the way as well. This will allow you to have those first few drinks without the horrible world-spinning feeling.  

I don’t recommend buying food at the bar, only because splitting the cost is so challenging. That being said, if you do decide to buy food, make sure you’re either getting your money back or paying your share (no one likes the person who can never “remember” to pay their share!).  

When you’re done drinking and you get back home, have some more food! Even if it’s something small. I recommend crackers and cheese! Your body will thank you later! 

5. Don’t Set Expectations 

Everyone wants their first time at a bar at university to be memorable. It’s one of those big adult experiences people can recall years into the future. The problem with this is the expectations we put on ourselves and what our night should look like. This can take away from the fun of it and if all you’re doing is trying to make those expectations happen, you’re going to walk away unhappy.  

Going to a bar is exciting! It’s an entirely new atmosphere and a much different group of people than a lot of us are used to, so don’t go in there with any expectations. Let the night happen as it does. You don’t have to stay out until 2 a.m., but you don’t have to go home and be in bed by 11 p.m. Take a break from any daily routine you have and let yourself relax. You’re going to have so much more fun if you don’t put any pressure on yourself.  

This experience, for many (my previous self included), is scary and that is totally understandable. It’s new, it’s big, it’s different and all of those worrisome feelings are completely warranted. But as long as you’re careful and have done some pre-planning, you might find this ends up being one of the most exciting nights in your university life! 

Abigael Chalmers

Wilfrid Laurier '25

Hi! My name is Abby Chalmers (she/her) and I'm a writer for Her Campus WLU. I'm a third-year student at Wilfrid Laurier, majoring in Communication Studies. I enjoy writing about life and love sharing my interests and opinions with others! When I'm not writing, you can most likely find me creating yet another Pinterest board!