Lifestyle’s advice column returns with our resident agony aunts, Genevieve and Hailie.
Question: I am a soon-to-be fresher, and I don’t plan to drink during freshers’ week. I still want to make friends and have fun though! Do you have any advice for someone in my situation? – Tina Total
Answer: Hello Tina!
I happen to have been in your exact situation before, so I do have some advice for you! You’re in luck because young people today are sober in increasing numbers , so it is very likely that you aren’t the only one planning a teetotal freshers’. There are lots of alcohol-free daytime events planned by the university for the week, and these are, of course, a great way to encounter new people and make new friends. It can feel easier to bring people you know along, but it is important to remember that going to these events alone can sometimes be a better plan. Of course bring a pal if you fancy it, but be aware that you might find yourself chatting exclusively to them – a lovely time, but not always the most conducive to meeting new people. I bring this up because if you don’t immediately bond with your flatmates, or you live alone, or at home, it can be helpful to bear in mind that going solo is an asset! If you do decide to bring a friend, it would be good to brief them on your plan to meet new people so they can get involved too.
Being sober is also no reason to skip evening events, because almost everyone likes to chat and dance! Alcohol is a social lubricant, but you don’t need to drink it to enjoy its effects – drunk people are generally delighted to meet new people! I also see no reason why you need to disclose the fact you are sober if you fear people’s judgement – on a night out you can happily drink lemonade until the morning with no one around you any the wiser. Everyone there is at a different part of the sobriety spectrum anyway! People drinking alcohol feel no social obligation to reveal what they’ve taken or drank that evening, and you shouldn’t either! Equally, you are welcome to explain that you’re sober when asked if you feel more comfortable doing that. In my experience, when I didn’t drink, this sometimes led to a line of questioning that wasn’t particularly interesting but I understand not wanting to lie (though this is fine too in my opinion!). On occasions when I did reveal myself to be teetotal the majority of people were completely unbothered. I met one of my greatest friends to this day when he was also sober at the time.
My final piece of advice is not to take it personally if you try to befriend someone and discover that they don’t want to be your friend. There are countless reasons someone might feel this way, and they range from you actually having a repulsive disposition, to you reminding them of their friend’s horrible ex – from it being about you personally, to it being completely outwith your control. You might as well assume it’s not about you because you can’t ever know for sure, so hang in there! If you are unsuccessful a few more times, remind yourself that social skills are just that – skills – and you will improve them the more you use them! Alcohol has the undeniable effect of dulling such anxieties. If, instead, you keep these points in mind it should help you to have a relaxed and fun time during freshers! Enjoy, and good luck! – Genevieve
Question: I’m really worried about not having enough money to get me through first semester. Bills are so tight, books cost a fortune, and I feel like my friends will think I’m boring for not wanting to go out constantly – it’s a nightmare.
It seems like everyone I know is having the same conversation with themselves at the moment. Being a young person amidst a cost-of-living crisis is so demoralising, and it can be so exhausting having to constantly balance your finances alongside every other issue that’s going on inside your head. I don’t know your exact situation, but what I do know is that you are not alone in this – and your friends are probably having the same anxieties themselves. A lot more people are counting pennies than you’d think – myself included!
My first piece of advice is that you don’t panic about not being able to go out as much. The fear of missing out can be a bit of a beast to tame, but there are ways to get her to chill out a bit. As Genevieve has touched on above, you don’t need to drink a tonne, or at all even, when you’re out and about at night (honestly, it’s often better for both your brain and your bank account to take a night off). If, however, you’re the kind of person who needs a bit of liquid courage to enjoy a lap round the dancefloor, try encouraging your friends to host a right good pres beforehand. And, when the purse strings start to feel like they’re cutting off your circulation, you can always re-embrace the house party and skip the queues at HIVE. I’d strongly encourage you to talk to your friends about how you’re feeling though, as no one would want you to feel like you’re going through on your own, nor would they want you to feel lonely when going out isn’t an option.
On a more practical note, you’ve mentioned that you’re worried about the prices of things like books and course materials. Don’t make the same mistake that I did and buy all of those overpriced books listed on the course moodle. You’ll spend £50 on a book that, in 3 months time, will inevitably become a dusty coaster on your desk. Have a scout on the Library website for digital copies of the texts (almost all of my core texts were available on here), or check-out places like the SRC’s second hand bookshop or ABE Books, where you can often find texts for a tenth of the retail price. Buying course materials can seem so overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to cost anywhere near as much as is often suggested.
You’re not boring for being bogged down by your bills, and it isn’t your fault that prices continue to rise at rates that simply don’t reflect the average wages and loans available to students. I hope things get better soon. Good luck, and remember that there are people here to support you through this – Hailie
If you do need some professional advice around your finances, get in touch with the SRC Advice Centre via [email protected]