Socialising at university can be daunting for those that prefer to avoid alcohol. In this blog, Leilani van Someren, President of the Queen Mary Sober Socials society, shares some alcohol-free freshers’ tips.
Before university, I had a few too many bad experiences with my emetophobia while at small parties with my close group of friends. I felt like these were safe spaces, surrounded by people who know me well and won’t pressure me into drinking – but I quickly learnt that I was afraid to be around them when they were drunk.
Obviously, this was not a good way to spend my free time, so I stopped joining the parties and attended every alcohol-free hangout instead. In an established friend group, it was easy to go to each other’s houses, eat out at restaurants and explore the city. However, I worried that I wouldn’t find this at university; that everyone would be obsessed with alcohol, and no one would want to join my boring hangouts.
All I had to do was look a little further to find the people that were right for me. And now, looking back, I am glad that I didn’t give in to my preconceived ideas of university social life. I found the Queen Mary Sober Socials society simply by scrolling through the list of societies at my university (where I was devastated to see that the Harry Potter society was no longer active!). I joined in the middle of the pandemic, so the events were mostly online, but knowing that there were at least twenty people interested in alcohol-free events made me so happy.
The next year, I was elected president of the society. I felt unprepared; I didn’t want to be in charge because I didn’t think I was confident enough to be the leader, but there were no other nominations and without an elected president there would be no society. The Sober Socials society needed to exist to ensure the safe space I needed in my first year was there for everyone else who didn’t want to drink alcohol. So, alongside my amazing committee, we hosted 27 events (almost one every week!) and grew to over 120 members last year. It’s now my last year at university, and I plan on using my second year of presidency to raise more awareness for the Sober Socials society, so anyone that doesn’t drink alcohol (or just needs a break from parties with alcohol) knows there’s a place to go where we don’t need alcohol to have fun.
With that in mind, here are my top three tips for having an alcohol-free experience at university, even during freshers.
- Search for alcohol-free events: Some Students’ Union websites have filters for events pages, including one for alcohol-free events. This can bring to light alcohol-free parties, or daytime events like walks, tours of the area, movies, meals – the list goes on!
- Join, revive or start a sober socials society: I know a few other university societies in the UK (like the Lancaster University Sober Society) that have sober or alcohol-free societies, but sadly some universities are lacking. Therefore, I say find some friends at alcohol-free events and revive or start a society! You can find the process and guidelines on your Students’ Union website, and if you need any help or advice, you can always email them. Being on a committee seems daunting but is really fun, plus it’s great experience for the CV.
- Finally, put yourself out there: Whether it’s group chats, societies, events, or Students’ Union positions, do whatever you are most comfortable with while getting your feelers out for friends. In my experience, sometimes you find dead ends, but the successes are very much worth it!
Written by Leilani van Someren
This blog was published with the permission of the author. The views expressed are solely the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alcohol Health Alliance or its members.