The other day, I was talking to someone on campus, where I caught myself joking that ‘I wasn’t a very good student’, and it made me think about the pervasive influence of the student subculture.
It appeared to me that the worth of a Student is not measured by the effort you put into studies, how many seminars you have attended, or your grade point average. People around me measure the worth of a student by how many times a week they get drunk, what stupidity people have achieved whilst drunk, and how much they have clawed back the year submerged in the library during the exam season. It seems counterintuitive. But, despite graduating with a first, having been an active member of more than one society and being well liked, I was apologising for being a ‘bad student’ because I don’t enjoy the drinking culture.
The surface states that we go to University to achieve a degree level qualification which will enhance our career prospects. In one respect at least, I have acquired the cynicism of students in regards to the graduate job market. So, theoretically, the measure of a student should be the grades they achieve and the work they put in. But, instead, it is seen as downright mindboggling for a student to be socially active and academically achieving. Which is absurd! The subculture of Student perpetuated by the media, movies and society involves drunken debauchery, embarrassing photos of heads down toilets, foolhardy antics, attempting a week of all-nighters drinking followed by nine am lectures and starting essays the night before they’re due. It involves wild stories that start ‘When I Was A Student…’ and people excusing their friends antics with ‘We’re Students, so its OK.’
But, there are actually a large portion of students that the student body collectively push to the side. Some are introverts, not socially active by choice, others feel that you go to university to learn not to socialise, and others just don’t enjoy the nightlife expected because you happen to be a student.
I fall into the latter. I don’t like drinking, I despise being drunk (Except for a very few occasions). Despite being on the Dance Committee and being incredibly active in the society, I didn’t go on many nights out. In fact, one night out I did attend during my dissertation writing (in an attempt to unwind and let go of some of the stress), the president of the society saw me at pre-drinks, had a double take, before incredulously asking if I were going out. My answer to the affirmative had him launching drunkenly to his feet, commandeering the attention of the entire room and yelling excitedly ‘BEA IS COMING OUT GUYS’ whereupon the room cheered excitedly before asking why I was leaving the comfort of my room. I had an absolutely awesome time, it was great fun and I enjoyed being able to cut loose. But, I consider a night out to be for that purpose, it is for kicking back and cutting loose. I don’t understand how people’s lifestyle choices have lead to them partying every night for a week and remaining perpetually drunk. Nor how their bank balances can support such a lifestyle!
I enjoy socialising, I love getting a coffee with my friends and sitting under the trees in the Square just because we have a free hour. I love going to dance, and spinning with my friends, because we can. I even enjoy trotting into my nine am lectures with a thermos of coffee clutched desperately in my hands. I love university. Learning is awesome, and the social side is amazing too. I just don’t like drinking.
So, I find myself apologising on a regular basis for being a ‘bad student’ because I don’t like clubbing, nor drinking. Yet, I am incredibly sociable, I work hard, and I play hard, just in a way that doesn’t require alcohol and making a complete drunken fool of myself. But student culture in general doesn’t favour non-drinkers. Socials are heavily influenced towards alcohol, and I had to cajole and bribe for a few non-drinking socials for the dancers. The scarcity of non-drinking socials may be why so many people assume that all students are huge, broke binge drinkers. Non-drinkers excuse themselves from the drinking socials, and assume that others want to drink, assume they are in the minority and it isn’t worth making a fuss for a few games at the bowling alley or a picnic in the park.
I do think that this expectation of drunkenness amongst students should be moderated. There are loads of students who consider themselves ‘bad students’ because they despise nights out. But, I think, if you are actually trying to do well at university, and you attend the social side in any form (drinking or not) then you are a very good student. University is about social skills as much as book learning.
From now on, I am not going to apologise for being a bad student. I was a great student. I will say that.
I am a student, and I choose not to drink often. I am still a great student, regardless of my resting blood alcohol levels.
Ok, rant over!