Alcohol and Campus Life – Conjoined Twins?

Sofia Banzhoff

Wine at GA’s and lectures. Free beer during Introweek, even on sports day. People pouring liquor into each other’s mouths at the bar. Alcohol seems to be our best friend – or maybe it’s a love-hate relationship, judging from the pale faces and empty seats that define Friday 11 am classes.

My drinking behavior here has been anything but consistent – from Bartenders’ Weekend to less than two glasses of wine a month, I’ve done it all. So I decided to talk to people who stick to one extreme, those who have an all-or-nothing attitude when it comes to alcohol. Nobody cares about the average, right? Except for maybe those of you taking Methods and Stats. Maybe.

At first, I assumed that it would be hard to find people who do not drink at all and relatively easy to come across those who drink a lot. But it was the other way around: everyone I asked knew someone who didn’t drink, and when I asked those people, all of them were willing to talk. The heavy drinkers, on the other hand, seem to be pretty good at hiding. Maybe they sensed that I am a little biased – after all, I have barely been to the bar all semester. And when finally some names were mentioned, it proved harder to talk to them. Luckily, I managed to convince a few.

As it turns out, drinkers and non-drinkers are not that different. Neither want to judge the other side and both emphasize that drinking is a matter of personal choice.

First-year Vivienne Clement says that she is “100 percent sure” her social life would be different if she drank. “In the first week, I was the girl who didn’t drink. That influences the way people see you.”

Second-year Peter Valach, a self-proclaimed drinker, finds a “positive correlation” between alcohol and social life, mostly due to alcohol causing more open behavior.

Rens Bakker, a non-drinking second-year, emphasizes that abstaining from alcohol does not decrease the quality of social life, but changes its nature. “I probably have less ‘real’ fun, like laughing very hard.”

What about alcohol being everywhere, even at GA’s, where we determine the future of our association? According to third-year Dennis Bednar, it provides an incentive to go. “Maybe that’s a bit sad, but also a smart way of getting people to come. But it takes away from the purpose of the event.” Can our decisions be taken seriously if, after long debates, half of the attendees are, to say the least, slightly tipsy?

“Alcohol is our social lubricant of choice,” says occasionally drinking second-year Mark Reuchlin. Does it also come with the peer pressure inevitably mentioned in any discussion of booze?

According to Rens, social pressure is the core issue. “If you don’t drink on campus, you need to have very strong arguments, be very stubborn, and convinced of your position.”

Others, like third-year Isabel van Oorschot, have never personally experienced this pressure. “I never feel like people think I’m a boring twat because I don’t drink.”

Despite all clichés connecting student life and alcohol, there is no need for a surgical separation: they’re closely related, but not as closely as conjoined twins. Ultimately, it comes down to a question Mark asked me when I thought I was doing the interrogating: “What kind of life do you want to live?”

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