To most people, students and alcohol go together like UEA and rabbits. One just wouldn’t exist without the other. There was probably many a worried parent driving home at the beginning of the year, head filled with horrifying images of their child stumbling home after a night out. Realistically, they would probably not be far off. The expectation that you’re going to get wasted, combined with the nerves of being away from home and meeting new people all creates a cocktail of pressure. Drinking is a way of getting past the awkward first night in halls as peoples’ confidence generally increases with every pint.
And that’s one of the things about drinking: it can act as a wrecking ball to social awkwardness. If you’re a shy person, or in fact just a bit nervous about being at university, during the first few weeks there is that pressure to come out of your shell and be sociable. A cheeky pint can help boost your morale ahead of a night out with the new flatmates. The only problem is, one drink is never enough. At pre-drinks there’s the inevitable game of Ring of Fire or Never Have I Ever with the innumerable shots that go with them. Once you’re out there’s special deals on jaeger bombs that your flatmate will tell you is such a good deal, that free drink from an even drunker friend and that one last VK before you stop for the night. And before you know it, your wallet is empty and you’re queuing at DFC for chips.
You’ll make best friends with everyone in the queue and probably learn more about them than their own siblings know: this is another reason why the pressure to drink is so high. It’s seen as easier to make friends when alcohol is involved as it loosens the tongue. This isn’t without its dangers though. That person you had a DMC with could turn out to be someone you just won’t get on with sober. We all have that friend – the one you always seem to be with on nights out but if you bump into them during the day the conversation is limited to awkward pauses and blank stares.
Why is drinking such a huge part of student life? Is it purely down to the attitude of students or could the atmosphere at university in general be to blame? How many freshers events are held at night in the LCR? How many societies have socials that centre around clubs or pub crawls? To tackle the heavy drinking culture, changes have to be made on campus as well as in student’s attitudes. And it is something that needs tackling. When you’re out and there is someone who doesn’t drink with you, the most common question they’ll face is “But how can you have fun?”. Is drinking really so vital to student life that it’s seen as impossible to have a good night out sober? Because if so, that’s a worrying trend.