The ‘A’ word: Can you do Freshers’ without alcohol?

Connie Bennett 8 October 2014

Freshers’ Week has got itself a bit of a reputation. Throw a group of newly-turned-adults together and you supposedly get a week of crazy partying, one-night-stands and excessive drinking. Arguably, all of the above does happen. But Freshers’ Week is about so much more.

I myself am a non-drinker; a, shock horror, tee-total teenager. And actually, we’re not as rare as you might think. This is because, believe it or not, not drinking does not mean we don’t know how to have a good time. I completed the entirety of Freshers’ Week sober (well actually, I completed the entirety of Michaelmas Term sober. But now I’m just showing off). Not drinking was honestly not a problem. The percentage of people getting obscenely drunk was lower than I thought it would be; only one person on my corridor bore the title of ‘First to Chunder’ and that was at the end of the week. If you do love a drink, don’t let this put you off – there was a lot of drunken behaviour. But drinking is definitely not a necessity.

This is because the actual friend-making bits of Freshers’ Week, in my experience, do not happen when people are out. They happen during the day; in the preparation to going out and in the morning after, when some may well be nursing a hangover. Trust me, you’re allowed to be as smug as you like when the hangover moaners appear. Alcohol-fuelled nights out are great fun, but they do not provide you with solid friendships. More often than not, you end up with a group of people you’ll never see again, and you can barely remember their name, let alone which college they go to. 

Freshers’ Week is about getting to know the people you’re living with; getting to grips with the geography of Cambridge and your college; signing up to any recreational activities, and having some fun before the essay deadlines kick in. If your idea of fun is staying in and watching University Challenge, I know plenty of people who did that during Freshers’. If you want to go out, you can do so drinking or not drinking (although the clubs are so jam-packed all week it possibly is more enjoyable when you’re slightly intoxicated and therefore unaware that you’re being crushed against a wall, with other people’s sweat condensing on your forehead, and too squished together to do any dancing except a slightly awkward shimmy)

So to any non-drinkers, or to any disbelievers, trust me when I say Freshers’ Week is possible without alcohol. It’s possible to still have fun, and to still be seen as fun. It took some people two nights into Freshers’ Week to work out I had only been drinking tap water the whole time. And yes, some people laugh, a lot of people ask ‘why?’ but in the end no one really cares. I was not by any means the only person not drinking.
I managed to spend a grand total of 90p on my Freshers’ Week, which must be some kind of record! Being a tee-total Fresher is not something you need to worry about; so buckle up, grab a tap water on ice and enjoy the crazy rollercoaster that Cambridge has to offer. 

Top 5 Tips for Teetotal Uni Life:

1) Make full use of the Porter’s adoration for you because you never verbally abuse them or throw up on them whilst drunk.
2) Really rub in how great it feels not to have a hangover whilst other suffer.
3) Whilst everyone is fighting over taking the left over formal wine home, grab the free orange juice and run with it. If you’re lucky you might even acquire a free jug with it.
4) Stand, laugh and even film the drunkards. Then never let them live it down.
5) Accept that you will, every now and again, be given the role of looking after drunk people. But don’t let it become standard procedure.