club soda

How to have fun at uni without alcohol

Posted at 28 November 2019

Club Soda have worked with Bournemouth University for the last two years for Freshers’ Week, sharing information about mindful drinking. The key objective of this work was to make sure that all new students know that it’s their choice whether to drink or not, and that it’s definitely not a necessity for their social success at uni.

The first year of university is both nerve-racking and exciting, filled with new people and unknown experiences.

Feelings of homesickness, social anxiety, study worries, and wanting to fit in are all key reasons freshers’ (and people generally) turn to social drinking. It can feel liberating - it loosens inhibitions, blurs the edges of stress and makes us feel more included and fun.

Here are a few fast-facts from our campaign learnings:

  • 21% of students don’t drink alcohol at all by the time they reach university. That’s one in five of you.
  • Peer pressure has been known to decrease that figure by the time Freshers’ Week is over.
  • Of the 473 Bournemouth University students that we surveyed about drinking, 25% of the ones who do drink said that their main reason for drinking less, or not at all on a night out, was physical health.
  • The next most popular reasons were mental health and wellbeing, and studying.
  • People under the age of 25 make up 25% of the population who are alcohol-free or have a more moderate approach.
  • Alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks choices are the fastest growing sector of the drinks industry, and extend way beyond water and sugary soft drinks. As a result, pub and bar staff are more supportive and even the stickiest-floored bars will have at least one alcohol-free beer or non-alcoholic cocktail.
  • Alcohol negatively impacts the brain, body, sleep, decision making and general wellbeing, yet the thought of socialising without it might seem overwhelming, particularly with Christmas and New Year coming up.

Here are some top tips for mindful drinking and some practical ways to enjoy uni and its surroundings with less or no alcohol:


  •  If you’re drinking, eat before you start and drink plenty of water before and during - if you’re not hungry or thirsty, you’ll naturally slow down your drinking pace.
  • Try lower alcohol volume options. Sounds simple but there are a lot of drinks that are sneakily strong such as wine, cocktails and some craft beers. Check the label and if in doubt - add a mixer like lemonade or soda water, or choose something different.
  • Low and no-alcohol drinks are a great way to blend in at parties and bars, and they’re usually cheaper than the stronger varieties. Wetherspoons, Revolutions, O’Neill’s and other bars, pubs and clubs will have options like alcohol-free Old Mout cider, Budweiser Prohibition and alcohol-free cocktails. If you’re looking for something even cheaper - cordial and sparkling water with a wedge of lime looks and tastes the business.
  • Having an activity or game to play at a pub or bar shifts the focus away from drinking and it’s usually free or cheap, so if you can find somewhere with a pool table, pub quiz or board games then get your mates involved.
  • Heading to a house party or hosting your friends? All supermarkets and their express versions stock all of the above options, and sometimes you can pick up a pack of 4 for £2.
  • Look for other activities that don’t revolve around drinking. Join your university’s relevant social media pages and groups, find out what clubs and societies
    they have, or what else the local area has to offer.



If alcohol is usually your go-to de-stresser, try these alternative methods which won’t add to any anxieties the following day:

  • Meditation - it doesn’t have to be spiritual, and there are some great apps like headspace which will take two minutes out of your day for some simple breathing exercises with calming or focusing effects.
  • Exercise - in whatever format you choose, is great for mental health.
  • Talk - to your friends or family about whatever you’re worrying about. Just saying it out loud can be enough to make things feel better.
  • Chill - just have a bath, read a book, watch a film, anything you’ll find comforting.
  • Create - making something will help you focus and you’ll have something to show for it at the end whether it’s cooking a meal, baking a cake, drawing, playing music or writing.

Last but not least, support your mates if they say they’re not drinking tonight. They don’t have to give you a reason, but keep in mind that there’s usually a good one.