Surviving college as a non-drinker

Growing up in a Muslim household and spending most of my secondary school years in Dubai has resulted in me never having been around alcohol. As such, it has never been a topic of conversation with my friends and nor has it been my go-to source of fun.

OP-EDLast Friday night, we danced on table tops, we took too many shots, think we kissed but I forgot. Story of my life.


Last Thursday, as the evening was coming to an end, so was my class get-together. As with most events, people went out for drinks afterwards and that is when I took my leave.

Growing up in a Muslim household and spending most of my secondary school years in Dubai has resulted in me never having been around alcohol. As such, it has never been a topic of conversation with my friends and nor has it been my go-to source of fun.

This is my first year in college and so it’s also my first time being around alcohol, around people who are drinking alcohol and around people talking about drinking alcohol. The fact that this notion is even a topic of interest shows how odd it is to be someone who is in college and not drinking alcohol.

There are certain things I find difficult about being in this situation.

One: Many a time I have found myself in the middle of a conversation where the sole topic is alcohol, e.g. what brand you drink, how much you drink, and, of course, the amusing anecdotal evidence of that drinking. Drinking is so embedded in Irish culture that I can’t even escape it in my lectures. The title of a slide in one of my lectures was “Going to the Pub” and it went on to assert that we all have pubs that we like and those that we don’t. Presumptuous much?

I’m sure we’ve all experienced that feeling of having nothing to contribute to a conversation and how it can really make you feel excluded from the group. Essentially, that’s how I feel when these situations arise. It seems as though people find a certain sense of achievement in bragging to their friends about how drunk they were the night before. I struggle to see their goal in saying these sort of things.

This adds to the allure of alcohol, which in turn makes non-drinkers seem either boring or uncool. I’m not saying alcohol is all people talk about all the time, but why does it matter so much?



Two: Having fun in Dublin isn’t as easy as it may seem if you’re a non-drinker. During freshers’ week, I soon came to realise that pub crawls were a thing – a thing that most people did and that I couldn’t do. I consulted my mother, as one always should when in doubt, and asked her what the deal was with all the college outings revolving around alcohol. As a non-drinker herself, she confirmed my suspicions that in Ireland there aren’t actually that many things to do that are catered for non-drinkers.

My brother is studying medicine in RCSI, and as a result I was made aware of the fact that a lot of their college events don’t have alcohol because of their largely international student body. Do we not also have foreign students? People from all different backgrounds, mindsets, cultures and creeds? I definitely think having events that don’t centre around alcohol is an idea that Trinity could consider adopting.

Three: Finally, after having experienced some college parties, I have come to realise that my being an introvert and having to deal with drunk people isn’t really a good combination. Conversations are hard enough for me to handle without the added weirdness of the other person being extremely open and over the top about everything.

There’s also that thing where you feel responsible as the sober one to look after your friends. This isn’t so bad, but it can be at the expense of your own fun. It would just be nice for a change if the first thing people did when they arrive at an event wasn’t to go straight to the bar to down some liquid courage.

But maybe I am asking too much. We all see things from a different perspective, and hopefully my observations will bring something new to the table.


Being yourself

Having read many articles describing the polarising experience of being a non-drinker, I’d like for this article to help you reflect and improve on our current state of affairs. At the end of the day, I believe your college experience will be good or bad depending on who you surround yourself with. If you have awesome friends, I don’t think whether you drink or not should really make a difference.

There are trials and tribulations that come along with being a non-drinker in college. I tend to feel left out, like I’m maybe not having as much fun as others, and I definitely have had to have a strong determination to resist the pressure to take part in the drinking.

Alcohol can really challenge your idea of what’s right and wrong, and hopefully my fellow freshers who don’t drink will stay true to their beliefs over these next four years. I truly believe that if you respect others’ decision to drink then they will respect yours not to. Just grab a Coke and try to have a good time!