It’s no surprise to anyone that socialising this semester has been very different and quite difficult for many, especially first years. Students are used to going out with friends, meeting for coffee, eating on the green and going to the many bars and clubs found in Dublin. Pre-pandemic, Trinity campus life revolved around society events that take place for the general student body and Freshers’ Week, the first years’ initiation into Trinity’s rich culture of on-campus organisations. These events often involve drinking and clubbing, and offer many new and old students exciting opportunities to mingle with their peers who may share a common interest.
“The success of many Freshers’ Week events in the past tended to rely on Ireland’s heavy drinking culture.”
However, the success of many Freshers’ Week events in the past tended to rely on Ireland’s heavy drinking culture, with Ireland having one of the highest alcohol consumption rates per capita in Europe. The alcohol and club oriented events that take place often leave little room for drink-free events every time the new term rolls around. There are many students who join events at clubs and pubs with the Junior Common Room (JCR), Ents and numerous societies, or even just drink-related get-togethers. This can be a struggle for people who don’t want to or can’t take part in socialising over a drink or in the club. Alcohol and clubbing can bring a whole new set of anxieties for people, especially those new to college who haven’t drank before, or those without any desire to. The emphasis on socialising with alcohol within student societies also perpetuates Ireland’s drinking culture, and students may feel peer pressured to drink or left behind if they choose not to.
With the pandemic, socialising has had to change significantly – nearly everything has taken place online, especially the events for societies and clubs. Now, everyone has had to adapt to the new environment of zoom calls, and everything is on social media and messaging apps instead of in-person. The closed doors of nightclubs and bars mean that they are no longer the go-to options for societies and clubs, and there is now an opening for many different types of events that are all-inclusive. This has created an opportunity for people to make new friends in a setting that they may feel more comfortable in, without the usual pressures that can cause extra stress and force people to spend less time socialising.
“The closed doors of nightclubs and bars mean that they are no longer the go-to options for societies and clubs.”
Societies have been coming up with various types of events. For example, cooking together over Zoom, quizzes and movie viewings. None of these events need to include alcohol, and the peer pressure to drink has disappeared from students’ lives. These events are also much less stressful, especially for first years. It’s possible to go to an event without the pressure to show yourself or even speak, while being able to experience how the society functions and to feel like a part of the online community of that society or club. There may be the added stresses of having to make an effort to look out for events, and sometimes the idea of joining another Zoom call in a day filled with online classes and the constant glare of a laptop screen may not be appealing, but it’s often worth it. It is so important for people to be able to put themselves out there and navigate the social scene, even if it has to be online. Trinity is fortunate to have a wealth of societies and clubs, and even though it can be a daunting experience, just joining these societies and trying some of their events can be a great way to get involved with student life. Those starting university or even those continuing have the opportunity to meet new people online and attend many more society events than they could in years prior. With everything at students’ fingertips, it is so much easier to access events, and a lot of the pressure that comes with attending them alone in-person has also gone away.
There are an abundance of different types of events that can go on without alcohol. For example, group games such as Among Us and quiz nights have become very popular over zoom calls. Sometimes it’s also fun to create together over technology, whether it’s following a Bob Ross tutorial with friends or learning to cook a dish. Large events that have been held by societies at Trinity this semester have included debates, guest speakers and movie viewings, all of which have been easy to find online and have not required alcohol to attend. Even smaller events are geared towards more relaxed chats with coffee or tea and baking events, emulating the pre-pandemic coffee mornings held by many societies on campus.
“It’s nice to see many more chances for other events to flourish and the possibility for many people to be social online without the pressure to drink when they don’t want to.”
There are still many events going on over Zoom that give students the opportunity to drink with fellow students, like cocktail-making classes and pub quizzes for those who might miss socialising in the pub with friends. However, it’s nice to see many more chances for other events to flourish and the possibility for many people to be social online without the pressure to drink when they don’t want to. Whether it’s a special cooking class for egg fried rice from DU Food and Drink, or a screening of a classic with DU Film Society, students have been given many opportunities to participate in societies through these lonely and socially-distanced times. While it’s far from ideal, these adaptations within society life may be even more inclusive than usual.