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Can I Still Enjoy University if I Don’t Drink Alcohol?

Can I Still Enjoy University if I Don’t Drink Alcohol? main image

Telling people you don’t drink can all too often be met by a blank stare and a band of people asking “why not!?” It’s true that many social interactions at university involve alcohol. Yes, meeting at the bar is a regular occurrence for most students and yes, almost all university society socials involve some form of drinking. At university, especially during freshers’ week, it may even seem like you’re almost expected to drink – but despite all this, is it still possible to enjoy university if you don’t drink alcohol?

I, personally, did drink at alcohol at university, and in my university, the majority of people I knew also drank alcohol. This was by no means everybody however – there were also many people who didn’t drink. In fact, an article from the NHS at the end of last year claims that the amount young people are drinking is declining over time. 

Will not drinking impact your social life?

Not drinking alcohol at university can sometimes feel very awkward. With so many social events based around excessive drinking, it can be hard not to feel left out if you don’t drink.

But will not drinking have an impact on your social life? The answer to this is yes and no. It really depends on whether or not you feel comfortable being around people who are drinking when you aren’t.  If you feel comfortable going to clubs and bars sober when people are drinking then of course this is an option, but if that makes you feel uncomfortable then you may also want to make friends with people who also don’t drink.

I asked my friend, Aima, who doesn’t drink due to her religion, if she ever felt like not drinking restricted her social life at university at all. She said, “I think most of the people I was socializing with during evenings were people who don’t drink or people who knew I wouldn't be comfortable with drinks around me, so it wasn’t much of a thing for me.”

As I spoke to Aima about this, I realized that not once in our friendship of four years have we ever discussed the fact that she didn’t drink alcohol. When we hung out together, it was just taken as a given that we would just do an activity that wasn’t reliant on drinking alcohol, like going out for dinner, having coffee or watching a film. The fact that one of us drank alcohol and the other didn’t was never really a factor in our friendship.   

Can you still go on nights out and if so, what do you drink?

From my experience, my friends who didn’t drink alcohol tended, on the whole, not to go out to nightclubs and bars as frequently the ones who did drink. However, it is entirely possible to have a great night out without drinking alcohol – and lots of people do it.

For those who would like to go out at night but don’t like the idea of consuming a crazy amount of alcohol, there are many alternatives available, and plenty of non-alcoholic drinks you can order at bars and clubs if you wish (which will also be significantly cheaper). Ultimately though, it really is up to you to decide what you feel comfortable with.

Energy drinks are a popular substitute for alcohol, as they can help give you the high energy levels of someone who has drank a lot of alcohol, without the hangover (although they have their own negative side-effects). In fact, I once tried doing this before a night out instead of drinking alcohol and the bouncers refused to let me in because they thought I’d had too much to drink – it turns out energy drinks can make you very hyper!

Alternatively many big brands have now started making non-alcoholic versions of their popular alcoholic drinks, due to a new focus on health. There are also non-alcoholic versions of cocktails available in most bars, which are just as tasty (if not better) as the alcoholic ones.

Can I still join in with university societies?

Of course! There are so many societies to choose from and although some will be more drink focused than others, the main activity will not revolve solely around drinking (with the exception of the cocktail society of course – and yes that is a thing in some universities.)

There is often a perception that sports societies are focused around drinking culture. While this may be true in some cases, the actual sports training will not be, and many universities now insist that all societies do at least one social that is not drinking related each year.  Your university may also offer a society especially for people who do not drink, which is a great way to meet other likeminded people who are in the same situation as yourself.

So, is it possible to enjoy university without alcohol?

Ultimately, in my opinion, yes, it is entirely possible. The university experience for someone who doesn’t drink may be very different to that of someone who does drink, but whether that is for better or for worse is purely down to the individual’s experience.

While drinking culture is, for lots of people, a large part of uni, it is only really the nightlife where you are likely to notice it. In the day there will be a multitude of events where alcohol plays no part.

I also think it’s worth noting that the amount of alcohol people drink and the amount people go to nightclubs tends to decline quite significantly after first year, or even after the first term as people start to get stuck into work and exams, so before you know it, many of your friends will be more up for a quiet night in rather than a wild night out.

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Do you think it’s possible to enjoy university without alcohol? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Written by Chloe Lane
A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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2 Comments

What a really awesome post this is. Truly, one of the best posts I've ever witnessed to see in my whole life. Wow, just keep it up.

I think it's totally possible to enjoy university without alcohol. Some non-drinking people are much funnier and interesting than someone who drinks.