Iam Russian, and with this national identity, I get many jokes about the excessive consumption of vodka. Initially, I surmised the British drinking culture as more civilised, at least because girls start with high heels and radiant make-up, even though most of them end up barefoot in the end. Here at Exeter University, drinking is more of a social event, a way to relax after a lecture filled day starting at 8.30am (*weeping inside*).
But, why is drinking heavily so popular with students? The madness of Freshers’ week was epitomised in collective going out and boozing. While it is a certain celebration of breaking away from home and becoming independent, it is also an ultimate icebreaker with new people. For example, halls is dominated by social drinking games including ring of fire and “never have I ever”.
I always wondered whether alcohol at uni is indispensable? I stopped drinking myself a while ago and realised immediately how narrow the circle of my friends became. It seemed to me that you need a beer or something stronger to oil the mechanism of social interaction. Is it only because a sober person is a bit awkward, a bit shy, and a bit less talkative?
All this can be quickly be eliminated if we find a common thing to do together – say, playing football, hiking, reading in groups. The abundance of societies at the University is a good example of a variety of things to do in your free time. However, it is worth pointing out that many of the society meetings smoothly transit to a pub when the official part is over.
I think the truth is in a modern hedonistic lifestyle. We are urged to indulge ourselves by the media world as seen in the overall consumerist type of our society today. The poet Adrian Mitchell views drinking as a political issue; in his poem ‘It May Concern’ he invites the Government to “chain his tongue with whiskey”. We accept drinking rituals as a gateway to a brief moment of euphoria, easy and effortless way to escape reality and real responsibilities.
Even if this is indeed a state of affairs, it is hard to make a conclusion. You should make your own decisions and try not to be influenced by others. Mine, at any rate, was to stay sober.
During Freshers’ week, I have done many productive things: tried some of the taster sessions offered by the societies, met interesting people, taken out my first book in the library, and had a walk around the greenery of the campus. Most evenings, however, belonged to me, because the parties were filled with people whose joy, borrowed from tomorrow, was alien to me. Does it mean that those who chose to be teetotal and people who drink cannot socially interact and be accepted? Of course they can, just like any people with mutual differences. Thankfully, we all have a university and various activities as a common ground.