The sober guide: Uni when you don’t drink

Top tips on how to enjoy Freshers' to the fullest when you're staying sober.

No ratings yet. Log in to rate.

Going to University is often associated with its' drinking culture. If you don't drink you may not know what to expect from Freshers' Fortnight and other events. This is how I felt last year before joining Cardiff Uni. For me personally, I choose not to drink because I don’t like the taste or effect. Before I started Uni I was worried about attending events, and I found that I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in because I didn’t drink.

In preparation for this September I’ve put together all of my top tips from my first year which helped me enjoy Freshers'!

Alcohol free accommodation

Cardiff University offer special accommodation where there is no alcohol allowed. This is a great place for you to find like-minded sober people to live with! These accommodations are available in Talybont North and Senghennydd Court. If you’ve already got your accommodation, you can still have a great year! I was in Talybont South (known as the most social accommodation) and found that people were super accepting that I don’t drink and never tried to pressure me.

You don't have to explain yourself

When you tell people you don’t drink, there first question is always “why?”. A sober uni student isn’t someone that many people have come across so there is always a natural curiosity of why you chose not to drink. I’m happy discussing why I don’t drink, but others have a much more personal and private reason why they may not. No one is owed an explanation of why you don’t drink, so never feel you need to tell someone why if you don’t want to.

There are many things you can say instead! Here are some suggestions:

  • “Actually, it’s a topic I don’t like discussing” this tells people that it’s a sensitive subject and will stop them from asking anymore about it;
  • “Oh, I just don’t like it” a common reason, but vague enough to be used to deflect from any private reason you may not want to share;
  • “It’s a decision I’ve come to over time for a number of reasons” this is accurate in most situations, but doesn’t tell the person much about your reasoning.

It should also be noted that many people may not even realise you don’t drink if you don’t tell them! I often used to drink squash or other non-alcoholic drinks at parties that looked just like other drinks, so no one would have known.

Choose alcohol-free activities

Whether your flatmates and friends drink or not, there is still a great range of things you can do in Cardiff without booze! Suggest an activity you think everyone would like - it’s a great way to get to know people without the need for alcohol.

Some of my favourite things to do in Cardiff are:

  • Go for brunch,
  • Book a Give it a Go trip,
  • Go (vintage) shopping,
  • Go to Silent Cinema,
  • Go to Crazy Golf,
  • Go to an escape room.

Find good drinks

Whether you like the taste of alcoholic drinks or not, there’s a great range of alcohol-free drinks available in most places these days! There’s been a huge increase in sober lifestyles (as well as the classic “designated driver” situation) so the drinks menus normally include a good range now! If you’re happy being around other people drinking, pubs and bars can have a great atmosphere so they’re still a fun place to go. Some great places are:

  • The Taf - you can’t beat the Student’s Union own bar (especially for the Thursday night pub quiz!). They have a great range of drinks available.
  • Turtle Bay – They have some great mocktails and other non-alcoholic drinks available (and great food!) if you want to go there with friends for bottomless brunch or food.
  • The Alchemist – while not a regular drinking location for most students, this is often chosen for birthdays and special occasions. They have a range of non-alcoholic or low alcohol drinks (just make sure you choose the right ones from this section) which are just as exciting as the alcohol drinks!

There’s also a great advantage to not drinking: the drinks are much cheaper! No alcohol tax means you’ll save a huge amount across the year that you can then spend (or save)!

Join in with others

Just because you don’t drink, doesn’t mean you won’t like “drinking” activities such as nightclubs! If the music is right and you’ve got your friends with you, nightclubs are a great night when sober! I found that the “disco” rooms always had such good music that alcohol didn’t feel necessary at all (though that might just be my cheesy music taste!)

Say no

If you don’t like a certain type of drinking (or any) activity, always remember you can say no! There were lots of nights out and parties I chose not to go to because I wasn’t feeling it or I was simply tired, so don’t feel you have to say yes to them all. Focus on what’s best for you and your mental health, people might actually envy you for your ability to say no!

Join a society or sports club

This is the advice given by everyone, but that’s for a reason! No matter what your interest is - from ballroom dancing to baking - there is probably a society that you will be interested in! Have a look on the SU website or keep an eye out for the Freshers’ Fairs when you arrive in Cardiff, and there’ll be a society you may not have ever thought of that’ll interest you! And if you do have an idea that isn’t there, you can always set it up yourself as there might be others interested! There’s also a great variety of sports clubs you could join. Even if you don’t enjoy some of the more classic sports, such as football, you may find that there are sports you may never have thought of, such as aerial fitness or caving and canyoning club!

Those are all the things I’ve picked up during my first year at uni, but there is one last important thing left: enjoy yourself! Your year will fly by, so try not to worry and just do what you want to do. Enjoy your year and prove to others that sober is just as fun!


No comments have been made. Please log in to comment.


Cardiff University Students’ Union, registered in Wales. Nothing here in contained constitutes an order for goods or services unless accompanied by an official order

Telephone | 029 2078 1400 Email | Website | Address | Park Place Cardiff CF10 3QN Charity No. | 1137163 Company Registration No. | 07328777
Undeb Myfyrwyr Prifysgol Caerdydd, wedi’i gofrestru yng Nghymru. Nid oes dim yn gynwysedig yma yn gorchymyn am nwyddau neu wasanaeth oni bai bod archeb swyddogol yn cyd-fynd ag ef

Ffôn | 029 2078 1400 E-bost | Gwefan | Cyfeiriad | Plas y Parc Caerdydd CF10 3QN Rhif Elusen | 1137163 Rhif Cofrestredig y Cwmni | 07328777