Off to uni but don't fancy a tipple? Here's some tips for being a non-drinker in a student world
University has a bit of a reputation for heavy drinking, and if you don’t drink much - or at all - you may feel a bit worried you'll be the odd one out.
But you’re not alone! The TSR community has a lot to say about being teetotal at uni - here's some of their advice.
Be upfront about it
If you tell your potential friends that you don’t drink when you meet them, or when it gets brought up, you can avoid the situation of being offered or bought alcoholic drinks. Telling your friends and acquaintances early means you can avoid feeling awkward about declining drinks, or feeling obliged to drink something that someone has bought for you.
"In terms of Freshers Week, I'd say get involved and try lots of things - not just the nights out, but all sorts of activities like sports and societies. In my experience, I've found uni to be at lot less judgemental than high school. No one cares what you wear, who you talk to or if you drink." - PollyParrot23
Alternatively, you don’t have to tell people
If you don’t fancy getting into your reasons behind not drinking, then don’t!
By the time people start to notice, they'll probably have had a few drinks, and it's unlikely they'll remember when they’re nursing hangovers the next day. Once you've spent a bit more time with new friends, you might decide you feel comfortable explaining it to them at a later time.
TSR member Ivory Toast says:
"No-one really cares if you drink or not. Those who do are too drunk to notice, and those who don't drink a lot are often happy to be around others having fun without needing to be drunk"
Check out your uni’s non-drinking events
These can be specifically non-drinking or sober events, or just activities which don’t usually include drinking. A couple of examples include quiz nights, coffee mornings, sporty activities and more.
Teetotaler Sherlockedd says:
"I've been teetotal for religious reasons all through life, and honestly I really am enjoying it so far! To be fair, our uni caters for non-alcoholic events - during Freshers they had a food crawl alongside the bar crawl!"
Join a society - or three!
If you fancy meeting others with similar interests to your own, escape the usual habit of heading to a club and join a society or two. Pick something you enjoy or something you've always wanted to explore, and you'll be able to have fun and meet new people without having to worry about being constantly surrounded with booze.
QuentinM speaks from experience:
"Pursue your interests through sports and societies and you'll meet people who don't care about whether you drink or not - or perhaps are in the same boat."
W1LLG4R also agrees:
"Even if you don't find new best mates in your halls, the clubs and societies at the Students Union will help you make friends and you can just be yourself without the pressure of having to go out clubbing. As cliche as it sounds, don't worry about the not-drinking part - you definitely wont be the only one!"
Don’t be afraid to say no
If necessary, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. If someone is badgering you to drink or is judging you, tell them you don't want to discuss it any further and that they need to respect your choices. Remember, you don't need to explain yourself or justify your decisions to anyone - just tell them to mind their own business!
Member laaurenshannon has been there:
"I don't drink much at all, very rarely. However, all of my friends are big drinkers and love going out to clubs, etc. On the occasion when I have joined them, I've gone along to the pub and had one drink or just went and joined in with their conversations or played pool and then left before they went to the clubs. The majority of them are alright with this as they know I feel uncomfortable and don't enjoy myself at clubs, but some of my other friends try to pressure me into going along with them. In these cases I just stick to what I want to do - leave and go home."
If you feel uncomfortable, a short-term solution to avoid getting into why you don’t drink is to make something up. If you’re offered a drink, you could say “no thanks, I just had one”, “I don’t fancy it tonight”, “I’m hungover”, or something similar. Don’t feel like you need to be ashamed, however.
Accept that some people may be annoying (and ignore them)
Some people may not accept that you don’t drink. The crucial thing to do here? Ignore them. There may be people who act like you not drinking personally offends them - maybe this just shows they're not the friends for you.
Dougieowner shares some wisdom:
"I’ve been tee-total throughout university and I’ve not really had many problems with it. Sometimes people ask 'why aren’t you drinking?' or act like it’s a bit weird, but if someone judges you like that and can’t accept your personal decisions, do you really want to be friends with them? Don't give into peer pressure or put yourself in uncomfortable situations, and be friends with those who accept you for who you are."
iElvendork seconds this:
"As long as you don't let it bother you, no one else will care, just means more alcohol for them at pre-drinks."
Don’t buckle to peer pressure
It may feel hard if everyone around you is drinking, but try not to give into peer pressure. You'll spend a lot of time with your new friends, so make sure they're great ones! If someone makes you uncomfortable about your decision to not drink, or only ever wants to hang out if there's alcohol involved, consider whether they're the type of friend you need.
As member PollyParrot23 says:
"I don't drink, and I figure if someone were to pressure me over it, they wouldn't be the sort of person I'd want to be friends with anyway. The great thing about uni is how diverse it is and you'll find students that drink every night, students that might have a few drinks at weekend or on occasion and those that won't drink at all (for all sorts of reasons be it religion, health or just not liking it)."
If you get to uni and decide you want to start drinking, that's fine - as long as it's your decision and not someone else's. If you do decide you'd like to have a tipple or two, make sure you're aware of your limits and are in control of what you're drinking, like member Bezoar says:
"After first year, I slowly managed to gain the confidence to say no and withdraw myself from the drinking side of student life. Now when I go out, it's so much more fun as I'm in control of what and how much I drink, and I'm always with close friends of mine who I trust."
At the end of the day, university is a time for learning and enjoyment- and you certainly do not have to drink to experience the latter!
Have you got any tips for not drinking at uni? Join in with the discussion below.
Want to find out everything there is to know about Freshers? Check out our Freshers Guide 2019!