What's it like to be a freshman at the "Zoo" who doesn't drink?
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On a Friday night at “Zoomass,” girls are putting on the shortest of crop tops and boys are slipping on their boat shoes. They pregame in their friends’ dorms before making their way to fraternity houses to party. Many students are living their college expectations to the fullest by binge drinking, stumbling into their dorms in the early hours of the morning and forgetting who they kissed last night.
I’m in my room, cuddled up in a big blanket and watching “The Walking Dead,” listening to the screams of drunk walkers.
I’m the student who does not like to party or drink, but I still chose to attend a university notorious for that lifestyle. The Campus Alcohol Use Survey found that in 2012, 86 percent of legal age and 69 percent of underage students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst reported drinking alcohol in the past month.
I knew what I was getting into, and I honestly don’t mind it at all. But for some reason, every time I tell people that I go to UMass, they have to ask me about the parties or make inferences and jokes about them. It’s almost like I’m disappointing them when I say that I don’t like to go out. I was even told that I looked like I wouldn’t be the type to do those things.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 4 out of 5 college students drink alcohol. I don’t mind being that 5th person, but there’s actually a downside to all of this, including being pressured and missing out on some classic college memories.
After almost two semesters at UMass, I know my limits. This year alone, I have only gone out three times, and I was completely sober. Yeah, it sounds lame, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get pressured. For some reason, not drinking means that I need a shot, so I am met with “Shayla, you want some?” and “You sure?” all throughout the night after countlessly saying that I am completely fine being sober.
There have been points during the year where I have held my ground, but I admit that there have also been times when the pressure got to me. I start thinking that I have to stop being lame and follow what everyone else is doing, but the truth is, drinking is not my idea of fun. I am all for people doing what they want to do, but I know that there are other people like me who prefer to stay in their dorms or do other sober fun activities on weekend nights.
It’s not just being pressured that is a downside to not drinking, but also sometimes having a bad case of FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out. I have tons of friends on my Snapchat and they love to document the process of a typical college weekend night. And while I prefer being wrapped up in my blanket and binge-watching shows on Netflix, I still feel like I am missing out.
All of my friends look like they’re having fun, and the worst part is, it’s without me. I actually came to UMass with my best friend, and lately it feels like I am not as close to her as I was before. I wish we could hang out on weekend nights just us two, but at the same time, I don’t want to take her away from having fun and letting loose.
But there’s one thing that I’ve learned from my experiences that I try to remember to keep these thoughts from getting to me: I do not have to follow what people are doing because in the end, I’m going to be uncomfortable.
Luckily for me, my roommate feels the same way toward partying and drinking, so I’m not completely alone on this. We both love to stay in, hang out and order Southwest Express. There are plenty of other students that feel the same way we do. UMass has a designated alcohol and substance-free residence hall in Central and a Wellness community in Orchard Hill, and they’re filled with people who knew what they were getting into coming to this university.
If you are someone who does not enjoy partying or drinking, maybe living on one of these floors is right for you. But if not, never let pressure or the fear of missing out get to you. There are plenty of sober things to do around.
You can get Herrell’s ice cream as you explore Northampton or grab some pizza at Antonio’s with friends in Amherst Center. You can go see a movie, a concert, or catch shows on campus performed by UMass students. Or, if you’re like me, you could try going to a party for one night completely sober, secretly wishing to be in bed.
Shayla can be reached at email@example.com.