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Why ‘work hard play hard’ might not be the best approach to university(Trigger warning: alcoholism)

It’s a way of life like no other, with its 2AM library sessions, hours of relentless textbook cramming, incessant writing, reading and referencing, followed directly by days of drinking, plenty of partying, remedies, and regrettable decisions. University habits are extreme and can be perfectly encapsulated by the ‘work hard play hard’ motto.

University students are no strangers to hard work, having successfully gained a university place. But with a whole new realm of freedom, new surroundings, and a beefy student loan, freshers, understandably, do not wait long to let loose and ‘play hard.’

So, what, no harm done, right? Do freshers even need to do the ‘work hard’ part? Does first year even count towards your final grade? In many cases, no. So naturally, after working laboriously for two years for your A Levels, spending countless hours on your UCAS application, investing huge amounts of money into your university education, you probably spend your first couple of weeks at university binning off important welcome seminars, campus tours and society inductions. Probably because you are hungover.

And that, unfortunately, is completely normal.

But it is no secret that alcohol abuse, unhealthy sleeping patterns, and, sadly, mental health problems, run rife at uni. And having been exposed to a certain aspect of that during my university days, I can’t help thinking that this ‘work hard play hard’ attitude might be to blame for the detrimental and unsustainable habits students consider to be the norm.

And if this lifestyle continues further into the year, you may find yourself, alongside many other students, in this sort of scenario:

You wake up hungover. You cannot bear the thought of getting out of bed, getting dressed, and walking into campus. You are unprepared for your seminar. You don’t look your best and can’t deal with the thought of bumping into the people you met at the weekend when you were drunk. Who did you meet? What did you say to them? Should you say hello to them around campus? You check your emails, and you have a ton of work to do, but you’re too tired so you’ll do an all-nighter the night before it’s due. Your friend texts you. “Night out tomorrow?” You agree. You can’t be bothered to go into campus the next day either as you’d rather save your energy for the night-out. You get drunk, meet a load of new people, go to bed late, and you wake up the next morning with a hangover and drink-related-anxiety. You’ll stay up all night the next day to complete your work. You consider going to the society you have been wanting to join, but you can’t be bothered, and you’d rather just go on a night out. So, you do. The vicious circle starts again.

University is scary at the best of times. As much as I hate to say it, the dependence on your beer cloak you gain during Fresher’s week can do you no good. You may be tempted to stay in your room, sleep, watch Netflix, and then scribble down any assessments from the comfort of your own bed. Because you can.

Since when was this what university was supposed to be about?

You may have only gone to university because you want to drink every night and go clubbing. Usually though, you will have gone because you have some interest in your course and you want to meet other people with an interest in it. You probably wanted to make genuine friendships and experience new things which don’t limit themselves to alcohol. However, you are now stuck a routine which looks somewhat different to what you had in mind.

At university, the ‘work’ part, should be fun, engaging, and something to look forward to. You may rush your trips to campus to return to the safe comfort of your room. The only thing that gets you out of bed may be a party, a night out, or anything involving alcohol. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

What if you could mix work and play for a completely different university experience?

If it means you must wear your favourite clothes, eat a delicious breakfast, put on your best playlist and take your coursework to a coffee shop to force yourself to get out of bed and venture into campus, then do it. Do not begrudge yourself these small niceties in place of the ‘play hard’ weekend you have got planned. University life should be about enjoyment and fulfilment, and the best way to do this is to turn work into play. Join societies, do sober activities. Go to every single lecture, seminar, revision session, society and club you can. These events will have so much knowledge, insight, and opportunity to offer you and must be prioritised for a rewarding and meaningful university experience.

This does not mean that you should never go on a night out and never drink, but maybe the ‘work hard play hard’ approach is better replaced by mixing the two, potentially leading to more meaningful friendships, a positive attitude regarding university work, and a healthier relationship with alcohol.


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