I’m sure we’ve all been there: telling people that you’re a university student and being hit back with accusations of binge drinking culture, questions about a ‘wild’ fresher’s week, and suggestions of a bank account drained purely by alcohol consumption. It’s often mistakenly seen as pivotal for any university student’s survival, and by generations above our own, particularly from those who didn’t go to university themselves, we are often painted as lazy binge drinkers who are only here to have a good time. Of course, there is no smoke without fire, and this view has come with almost complete reason. If you’ve ever tried to sleep on a Wednesday, Friday or Saturday night, you will agree that drinking is very prevalent on campus, and the effects that it has are often questionable.
Peer pressure can often be a reason for drinking, or so we think. There is a percieved expectation to drink so instilled in us before we become students. A 2018 NUS survey states that before they come to university, 47% of people assumed that university students got drunk most of the time. This same survey also states that 70% of students think that students drink to fit in with their peers, showing quite how much power is held by those around us, and how easily we can cave to expectations of us.
Yes, we as university students drink, the NUS survey stated that 79% of students thought that drinking was a part of university culture, and 38% of people say its difficult to not drink too much. Clearly, alcohol consumption is a huge part of what students do; whether it be at Sugar or at home, the majority of university students will get drunk multiple times a week. There are of course exceptions to this, and a lot of students do not drink at all (and I’m sure they are envied by those nursing a sore head the next morning), but for many people, drinking is necessary for encouraging social relations or enjoyment.
Alcohol can change a person’s character in ways that are often terrifying. It is not unusual to see fellow students in tears on the streets or yelling at each other in McDonalds. If you’ve been to Sugar more than once, you’re almost guaranteed to have seen someone being kicked out or being very provocative with another member of our beloved university. And if you step into my flat on the weekend, it wouldn’t be surprising to see my flatmates trying to crush a beer keg with their foreheads. The next morning, the headaches, the nausea, who can say that they enjoy that? For many, a hangover can rule out an entire day, leaving many of us in bed feeling sorry for ourselves. Dehydrated and miserable, curled up in bed watching Netflix, doing nothing productive, whilst forgetting about those looming deadlines and that essay that just won’t write itself.
Yes definitely, drinking has its consequences both on the night and the next day, and responsible drinking should always be advocated, yet we continue to drink excessively. So why? Why would we want to laugh uncontrollably with our closest friends? Why would we want to play games that watch us all squirm with embarrassment and shame? Why would we want to sing at the top of our lungs on the sugar bus? Why would we want the incredible feeling of those cheesy curly fries as we take the first bite? After a week of lectures, seminars, gruelling workshops, all we want is that feeling of euphoria, that feeling of being carefree and having little or no responsibilities. For those of you who can achieve that without a gin or a glass of wine, I will always be uncontrollably jealous. But for many of us, alcohol merely assists in us enjoying our free time. Whilst we avoid true adult responsibility, why shouldn’t we be allowed a bit of a ‘sugar’y treat now and again?