Julie Hassett speaks about her experience of going to college, and not drinking.
I, being a third-year university student, am a self-proclaimed anomaly as I am one of those few college students who don’t drink – socially or otherwise. This has left me somewhat excluded from most social groups as a result. Not that it ever bothered me too much. This is because I found other ways of entertaining myself, and more importantly socialising. These methods didn’t involve spending hours in a club-environment that I’m not comfortable with.
 
Normally if I encounter someone who hasn’t met me, and I tell them I don’t drink, they react as if it is some sort of achievement. They would usually follow up with a question about how I spend my time alternatively, and that got me thinking. What do I do?
 
College is an amazing place that allows students to really come into their own, experiment and find out what they do or do not like. For me, it came down to finding a group of like-minded friends who I could be myself with. And, since none of us were fans of the club or pub scene, we had to be more imaginative in how we spent our time.
 
In my first year of college, I formulated some of the strongest friendships through my involvement in co-founding a small D&D group. (That is, the roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons, for those unaware.) We would meet once a week, gather together a hoard of snacks, and step into a fantasy world for several hours.
 
Many of my friends, like myself, are film students. And therein lay a great source of entertainment. More than once, I have caught myself filming my friends as they acted out some script one of us managed to conjure up, while passer-byes observed us on their way to a night out.
 
It’s not a very difficult thing to do, to find alternatives to going-out. While the idea doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest, I don’t blame people who enjoy it. Although, not drinking has, admittedly, some downfalls.
 
Firstly, some people consider you to be odd when you tell them they don’t drink. I’ve missed out on a lot of drama and points of conversation by opting to stay at home. People who go out appear to always be in constant commentary with one another, speaking about things which I don’t really understand and it is like they have some sort of private joke between them.
 
Coming to college, it also made it difficult to find friends. For the first month, our class would have weekly nights out to help people get to know each other. Me, sticking to my guns, refused to go and ended up missing on that bonding element. I sat at home, thinking it was unfair that the only classbonding sessions took place in an alcohol-filled environment, until I came to grips with the idea that this was the social norm.
 
Having said that, a few years on, I realise that, even if I did go out more, either in secondary school or my early college days, I would have spent hours wishing my nights away. I would have forced myself to enter into an environment I genuinely felt uncomfortable in. In a mindset like that, how could I ever have bonded with people? This is a thought I still hold to. Admittedly, it is easier to get by now that I have a group of amazing people around me, who would much rather spend a night in with some pizza and a good movie and a long chat, rather than go out and drink the night away. So, it’s not all hopeless. It just takes some patience, and some initiative to go out and find new things to get involved in!