Is binge drinking a right of passage?

Turning eighteen, getting your first job, and moving away from home for the first time can all be classed as rites of passage – typically events which mark the transition from childhood to adulthood. But how significant is getting drunk for the first time in comparison?

For many, university is the first time they’ve been of legal age and living away from the watchful eye of mum and dad. This combined with drinks at the Union only costing a couple of quid – and deals which combine alcohol with the Holy Grail of all student food (A.K.A. pizza) – make it easy to see why drinking is a popular distraction.

If new-found freedom and dirt cheap VKs weren’t already reason enough to drink; consider the sheer number of drinking socials during Freshers’ Week, ‘chunder charts’ which position drinking to excess as an achievement, and peer pressure to drink alcohol in order to be socially accepted.

Whilst drinking isn’t something that all students choose to partake in, it can seem like there is an expectation that alcohol is mandatory to have a good time. I know people who choose not to drink: some abstain from alcohol for religious reasons, some for health reasons or medication, and some simply don’t like the taste.

Many would argue that drinking alcohol is a vital part of student life. “Are you really a student if you haven’t turned up still drunk to a 9am?” At risk of stating the obvious, well yes they are. The idea that a personal choice of this nature automatically constitutes a student’s experience as lacking is somewhat dismissive of the fact that university life is made up of varying experiences.

For most, drinking is a casual pastime, but lest we forget that excessive alcohol consumption can come with severe health consequences – a darker side to the UK drink culture that we hear about all too often on the news.

The thing to remember about university and human experience more generally is that we all perceive and experience things in differing ways. What may be of paramount importance to you, another person couldn’t care less about. So whilst drinking may be a rite of passage for some, it certainly doesn’t have to define your university experience.

Hopefully unlike being drunk for the first time, you’ll achieve lots of other milestones at university that you’ll remember come the morning.


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March 2021
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