Everybody Talks: Faith, freshers’, and finding my feet

Tasnia Begum 23 January 2015

Freshers’ week is bad enough as it is – uncomfortable family dinners, confusing Cambridge lingo (I am ashamed to say that I initially thought a ‘DoS’ was a curse word) and those awkward instances in conversation when it suddenly occurs to you: ‘I do not even know the name of the person I am speaking to!’. Throw in the fact that I do not drink any alcohol, due to a mixture of religious and personal choices, and it’s a recipe for disaster. 

‘But no-one will pressure you to drink!’ I hear you cry. No, they won’t; however sitting with a can of Coke whilst everyone else around me has an alcoholic beverage makes me feel like some sort of invalid. I feel as if my teetotalness becomes the elephant in the room, politely asked about at first and then quickly glossed over as if a taboo subject has been approached. 

At first I was thankful that my college did have alcohol-free activities during Freshers’ Week but they almost always become the ‘dry’ option, both in terms of the absence of alcohol and the level of enthusiasm attached to it – it’s either the Super Awesome Pub Crawl of the Century or watching Shrek in the TV room. You choose.

It’s not just Freshers’ Week which is tough, in general being teetotal as a student is a challenge, as socialising is generally centred around alcohol. I completely understand that at the end of a stressful week of speed-reading and pretending to know what your supervisor is talking about, all some students want to do is have a drink; and they are completely entitled to that. Nevertheless, this drinking culture can isolate those who don’t drink, as for someone who has never had to deal with having friends who drink, bars and pubs can be intimidating places.

Now in my second term at Cambridge, I’ve managed to find my feet, yet at times my teetotalness does still feel like a barrier. In the future, colleges should take time into planning non-alcoholic events. Rather than having ‘dry’ alternatives, there should be purposefully ‘dry’ activities, so that no one feels they’re choosing the ‘lame’ option.