girl pulling pints at a bar
girl pulling pints at a bar

Navigating University As A Non-Drinking Student

There are 800,000 sober students across the UK

A third of UK uni students in the UK now identify as sober, according to our recent survey, representing almost 800,000 teetotal young Brits. 

This has risen by 22% from Freshers 2021, showing that more and more students are turning away from the booze.

While a third of sober students feel empowered by their decision not to drink, a quarter do admit to feeling isolated by their sobriety, claiming it’s difficult to make friends when you don’t drink.

What is means to be a non-drinker

There are many reasons why someone might not drink, as well as many ways they may navigate around alcohol in their life. For some, they are tee-total and don’t touch the stuff whilst others may prefer to exercise booze with caution and decide when they want to drink.

For others, they may be part of the sober curious movement sweeping across the UK. Sober curious events like Sober October and Dry January draw in hundreds of thousands of dubious drinkers every year, and by the end of the month many are realising the benefits of living sober.

There’s no right or wrong choice when it comes to alcohol, everyone is entitled to figure out and steer that relationship however suits them.

guys drinking at a pub

How Sober Societies can help

Having fun with friends needn’t require a drink in hand. In fact, we know that students much prefer to go out for dinner (80%), go shopping (74%), head to the gym (46%), and see live theatre (44%) with their friends over going to pubs, bars, and nightclubs.

Sober societies can offer safe spaces to experience non-alcoholic events like these, including the likes of hiking and movie nights to its members.

AJ De Vera, a second year International Relations student and the current President of the Lancaster University Sober Society, says:

‘I think it is vital for a Sober Society or something similar to exist in all universities. Before going to university, I was worried that I was going to be excluded from many events or miss out on the university experience simply because I didn’t want to drink, or go to a club, but when I found Sober Society, I was able to connect with like-minded people.

‘Our society’s aim is to provide a safe space for people who want to hang out without the presence of alcohol — it’s not exclusive to teetotal non-drinkers. We see all types of people at our socials. Some, such as myself, do not drink at all, some drink occasionally, and some actually enjoy drinking. 

AJ continued: ‘I am part of other societies, and I have noticed the vast majority of events included drinking. Drinking is so ingrained in our society that non-drinkers often receive an unsolicited negative response. Some have their personal reasons for not drinking, and whatever their reasons are, they should be respected.

How societies can be more inclusive to its non-drinking members, according to AJ:

  • Reassure your members: ‘It’s important for the executive team of any university society to let people know ahead of the event that it is absolutely okay if they do not want to drink alcohol, and that they won’t be berated for it.’
  • Provide alternatives: ‘It’s fine if a social is in a drinking venue, but make sure that there are non-alcoholic beverages available for those who don’t want to drink. Bonus points for choosing venues that offer non-alcoholic pints, wines and spirits as it allows people to choose to drink something similar to the rest of the group.’
  • Create balance: ‘There should be a good mix of drinking and sober events throughout the academic year — a big party shouldn’t be the default idea. Socials like games nights and park picnics can still be great fun without the booze.’

University Sober Societies and Online Organisations to check out:

Wholesome fun can be had without a drink in hand. These communities offer safe spaces for activities without the need for alcohol:

The best non-alcoholic drinks to order at a bar

Not all establishments will have a wide range of NA options, but the offering is slowly growing as popularity increases. Here’s some of the best non-alcoholic drinks to try when you’re next out.

  • Instead of beer, try Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0 (Non-alcoholic beer)
  • Instead of cider, try Kopparberg Alcohol Free Mixed Fruit (Non-alcoholic cider)
  • Instead of wine, try Black Tower Alcohol Free White Wine (Non-alcoholic wine)
  • Instead of gin, try Seedlip Grove 42 Non-alcoholic Gin with your choice of mixer
  • Instead of a cocktail, try asking if the bartender can make one of their cocktails without alcohol (it usually isn’t a problem, depending on the ingredients). Go for a classic Nojito, a virgin version of a Mojito
  • Instead of prosecco, try Nosecco (Non-alcoholic prosecco)