UK drinking culture is at its height as a university, starting right from your very first week as a fresher. It may seem like an unavoidable part of university life, especially since it’s so closely linked to socialising and making friends, but it is possible to stay sober at university. More than 30% of UK students would class themselves as non-drinkers and these figures are slowly rising. Keep in mind these tips to navigate university life as a non-drinker!
Join university societies
You’ve heard this one before – but it’s an important step. Your social environment is incredibly important. If you feel suffocated, you’re likely in a small bubble with people who have conflicting lifestyles to you. Finding people who you have things in common with will help more than you know.
- If you’re struggling to balance academia with your social life whilst staying sober at university, joining a society could be perfect to find a hobby in an environment that you’re comfortable in. University societies are incredibly diverse and include things you’ve never thought of before. Whatever your niche interest is, there’ll be a society to accommodate it!
- Attend your freshers’ fair: this is the best way to find out all about societies straight away: when they are, what they can offer you, and how to get involved. Joining societies later in the academic year is definitely doable, but can feel daunting to some, so make sure you take the opportunity in the first few weeks to get to know people early in the process.
- Joining a society doesn’t have to revolve around the activity itself: even if you don’t attend every week, or even lose interest in the society focus, the people you meet could turn out to be your closest friends. Join the group chats, attend the events, and keep an open mind!
Choose your environment well
Student halls and universities in general will differ on drinking culture and considering this could vastly change your experience. Do your research beforehand!
- Choose your university well. Along with considering the academic aspects, also read reviews on student forums about the drinking culture of your university city before choosing, and how non-drinkers found staying sober at university.
- Most UK universities offer alcohol-free accommodation options. This is a perfect solution to meet like-minded individuals straight away. If you’d prefer, this is also a great option to keep drinking activities out of your living space, and start university life with one less thing to worry about. Find more detailed information here about which universities offer alcohol-free accommodation.
- It’s important to step outside of your comfort zone at university and socialise with people that you wouldn’t usually meet: you can learn a lot from people who are different to you. However, if your living situation turns into one that makes you feel uncomfortable, get in contact with your housing accommodation team at university. They’re there to accommodate you where necessary – and moving to a different location may be a real option to consider.
Talk openly with your peers
People come from all different walks of life and backgrounds at university, and some people have never met someone who prefers to not drink or abstains from it completely. Some people will be confused, and others will make assumptions. If someone asks you, be firm but friendly about your choices.
- Take the opportunity to address stereotypes: not drinking or clubbing doesn’t mean that you don’t like socialising or have to isolate completely from drinkers.
- Let people know your limits: some people do not drink at all, others might like socialising at the pub but prefer not to binge drink. Let people know what activities you want to participate in!
- Suggest something different: some people drink together because that’s the way they’ve been socialising for years. Suggest a new social activity to your flatmates or friends – a game of pool, a movie night or eating out could be choices that everyone is open to.
The university experience is unlike any other: it will give you priceless memories and great experiences. Don’t feel like you’ll only be able to make the most out of it in a certain way, you will make lifelong friends in your own way and at your own pace. Whether it’s for personal preference or religious reasons, never feel like you have to start drinking to fit in.
- If staying sober at university gets overwhelming, don’t hesitate to reach out to your university’s wellbeing team. It always helps to speak to someone, even just for advice. You should be able to find out how to get in touch on your university website.
- If your friends or flatmates pressure you into alcohol-filled environments or to drink when you’re not comfortable, know that they’re not the best people for you.
- Freshers’ week will be particularly difficult for non drinkers. There’s no lectures or academic activities yet, so people will turn to drinking activities more often. Keep in mind that this is likely the hardest point: after you make friends and learn to navigate your new environment, it will get better!
Be sure to check out the Roome website, where we post loads of tips and tricks for university students every single week. Follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook to learn more about how we’re revolutionising the student housing market!
Posted by Owen Redman
Co-founder of Roome