You Don't Have to Eat a Bonsai Tree: Being Alcohol–Free at Warwick
It often surprises people to learn that I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t fit the stereotype, I guess – I’m fairly outgoing (albeit on my own terms) and I quite enjoy going to the pub with my friends. I also avoid caffeine, which people balk at occasionally, but that’s a story for another time.
Before I got to uni, I was really worried about how people would take me being a non-drinker. If that one episode of The Inbetweeners is to be believed, then Warwick student life revolves around eating bonsai trees and yelling naval ranks at each other while under the influence. While I didn’t believe that was true, I’d definitely heard the old “if you don’t drink, you don’t make friends” from my peers.
When I applied for my first year accommodation, there was a box on the form that allowed us to describe ourselves. I knew that I didn’t want to be the odd one out in a flat of people clubbing together several nights a week, so I mentioned that I was a non-drinker and would prefer to be with other people who also weren’t so keen on that scene. The best thing to do is to be honest in this box – there’s no shame in saying that you’re not really interested in getting drunk, when you’d rather spend your Friday evening at a society or huddled up with Netflix. The same is true the opposite way round too, and so trying to describe yourself accurately will help the accommodation team to place like-minded people together and reduce tension in the flat.
I ended up being put in a fairly quiet flat in my first year. We all kind of just coexisted in the same space, with the occasional long chat or shared dinner – there wasn’t really any crowning moment of meeting my best friend for life in halls, or anything exciting much going on. It was pleasant to have somewhere quiet and calm to come home to at the end of the day, though, and there was no pressure to do all the “traditional” alcohol-fuelled freshers’ week activities.
As for making friends, most of my close friends are either people from my course, people from societies, or people I’ve worked with from the Warwick Welcome Service. I’d definitely recommend joining societies and sports – it’s clichéd, but they’re a great way to meet people with common interests. The SU have recently been running a campaign called Wasted, which aims to make society socials more accessible to people who don’t drink alcohol. For example, in Quiz Society, most of our regular sessions are alcohol-free, and those that do involve alcohol always have at least one sober exec member. We’ve also done some socials that don’t involve alcohol at all – going to see TV shows being filmed, visiting museums, watching other society productions (OpWa and Musical Theatre Warwick!), or just getting chips and doing pop music quizzes. Getting a job can also help with making friends – and the money isn’t bad either! There are plenty of positions in the uni, the SU, or external businesses in the local area – a lot are advertised in Term 1.
You don’t have to be alone as a non-drinker – far from it. I’ve never felt that I’m missing out on anything that I want to do as a result of not drinking alcohol, and nobody at uni has ever tried to make me drink. It’s very much a case of “each to their own”, and there are plenty of things to do on campus without touching a drop.