Feature: Safety In Numbers

It’s a near inevitable rite of passage for university students. Student nights as few as two or three times a week, and as many as five, are the pinnacle of socialising on and off campus for some.

However, alarming numbers of students are less prepared for what to expect on nights out in towns they barely know, with many having very little practice at home beforehand. Many have recently become of legal drinking age, and quickly thereafter bundled into a car with all their worldly possessions and dumped in a strange new town.

Perhaps one of the most worrying figures from a survey conducted by studentbeans.com on student drinking habits is this; nearly half of all those surveyed had walked home alone. Of course, who is to say that wasn’t just round the corner, but then who is to say it wasn’t two or three miles away? Then those that do get a taxi home – just over a quarter had no idea if it was a licensed cab or not.

John Green, Superintendent of Devon and Cornwall Police knows this all too well. “Know your limits; I have seen too many young people as victims of crime or stupidity through excessive consumption.” He also stressed the importance of a group sticking together. “Females should not get split up from their friends, especially when a bit drunk. It leads to increased vulnerability.”

Of course, there is plenty of advice readily available from your student union, the DirectGov and NHS websites and even the old fashioned way; from Mum and Dad, who have done it all before. The advice offered by these sources are all similar, and good advice all in all.
The only problem is that once you start to drink, most of this advice goes out the window. The last thing on your mind is how you will feel tomorrow, let alone the pressure put on by friends and by yourself to keep drinking more, which can quickly lead to an even larger loss of control and even less care for the good advice previously presented.

One student of 18 years old told me that he never used to set limits on the amount he spent on alcohol, or how much he had to drink until recently. “I woke up one morning with a receipt for £80 of withdrawn cash, and I had none of it left,” said Elliot Potter, student at the University of Bath. “That’s when I knew it had to stop. I make a point of getting £40 out the cash machine, which includes taxis and food, so I know I can’t spend that much again.”

The same survey from studentbeans.com discovered more than 50% had missed a lecture or seminar due to drinking and exactly one-fifth thought that they wouldn’t be able to survive a term without drinking at university. Not only that, but three of the top five most alcoholic universities (by a mean result of units drunk per week per student) were the universities that were also having the most one night stands. Outside of that, a quarter of students had admitted to having had one.

Contrary to the advice given by Superintendent John Green, Elliot told me that there was no arrangement of times to leave or meeting points should the group disband. “I normally just walk round the club when I feel like going and see who I can find to leave together with. If I can’t find someone, I just assume they made their own way home.”

There are plenty of ways to avoid all this however, with many students choosing to abstain completely for religious or health reasons. Those otherwise who prefer not to out of choice have plenty of tips on going about it in a pressured environment, such as joining a club that holds regular meet-ups not in pubs, like a drama society. However many will still go out but just not drink, instead choosing water, fizzy drinks and ‘mocktails’ to be comfortable alongside those who are. Also, it’s a good idea to associate more with those who also don’t drink, which takes the pressure off of you significantly.

If you don’t feel like abstaining, the number one priority is staying in control by setting limits. Whether that be by money or by how much you drink, both work well. There is also the option to drink soft drinks throughout the night, in between alcohol.

Above all, it is important to be comfortable with whatever decision you make, and being safe does not mean sacrificing fun!



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