College is an amazing experience full of learning, self-discovery, and over-consumption of alcohol. Nearly two-thirds of college students ages 18-22 reported binge drinking in December 2015 according to the National Institutes of Health. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean that these college students know what they’re doing, and their friends have the videos to prove it.
The drinking age is 19 in Canada. Meaning, most college freshmen can legally roll up to a bar and order a beer. (That’s not why I decided to go to college in Vancouver.) So I had to learn how to navigate drinking culture at a younger age.
So in the interest of keeping your least flattering moments off of social media, here are eight tips to help you conquer college nightlife.
1. There’s always something to do
As I wrote in a previous article on the 9 Things To Do (And Not To Do) In Your Freshman Year Of College, there are countless clubs where you can meet like-minded people. Many of these organizations have events open to members and non-members alike. While Ski & Board is throwing their backcountry BBQ, the Arts Faculty could be holding a black-tie optional charity gala. Take advantage of the opportunities your campus offers, to make the most of your college experience.
Hint: If there are two events on the same night, you’re not choosing which one to attend, you’re choosing which one to attend first.
2. Squad up
Can you have fun going to a party by yourself? Absolutely, it’s just not nearly as fun as going with friends. I like to think of going out with a group as “social carpooling,” since you can share your connections and financial resources on a night out. Whether you need a wingman or someone to back you up in a dance-off, your squad will have you covered. This is particularly fun at the beginning of the semester, as it’s a great way to make new friends.
Remember, though, if someone in your group gets in a sticky situation, it’s your duty to help them out.
3. Eat “right” before drinking alcohol
When you read about “eating right,” you might imagine a salad, a soup, or something with chard. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to tell you to start the party with a shot of wheatgrass. To prepare your stomach for a night of drinking, you’ll want to reach for the greasiest burger, pizza, or paella you can find. Eating a heavy meal before drinking prevents the alcohol from flowing directly into your small intestine, which gets you drunk faster. Don’t try to cheat this one either: eating after any drinking has little effect.
4. Hydration is key
You should be drinking water anyway since our bodies are 60 percent water, but it’s important to stay hydrated on a night out. Otherwise, the consequences can be painful, including but not limited to: dry mouth and throat, nausea, exhaustion, an inability to focus, and a splitting headache made worse by existing. These side effects are commonly known as a hangover. Alcohol is an incredibly effective diuretic (it dehydrates you)–which also shuts off the hormone that makes your kidney reabsorb water, instead of sending it to your bladder.
I’ll repeat a recommendation you’ve probably already heard: alternate water and alcohol with each drink. And, no, you don’t have to walk around the party double-fisting a beer and a glass of water. Just chase that shot of vodka with a bottle of Dasani. You’ll thank yourself tomorrow morning.
5. Have a backup plan
College students are notoriously bad at planning. This is why you need a backup plan, or even just a location or activity to fall back on when Plan A crumbles. When putting together Plan B, keep these principles in mind: your backup should be affordable, nearby, and open late.
One night, my friend and I gravitated to a bright sign—”$4.95 All Food”-—a restaurant that lives up to its marketing slogan. Open until 2 a.m. every night, a short walk from one of my favorite hangouts, and competitively priced, “$4.95 All Food” is the perfect backup plan.
6. Make sure you’re properly equipped
Given that your plans will most likely fall apart, it may seem futile to try to plan ahead. However, there are still many things you can, and should, prepare for. I never leave for a night out on campus without my essentials:
- Phone Charger – Charged phones get you home, dead phones get you lost.
- Water Bottle – Not today alcohol.
- Jacket – For some reason, it gets cold at night, I think it has something to do with the sun…
- Lighter, matches, anything that can start a fire – Live spontaneously! You never know when your friend’s dorm party might migrate over to the beach for a bonfire.
Your list of essentials probably won’t be the same. My list changes with new circumstances, and evolves as lessons are learned. But you want to grab the basics for heading out the door.
7. Know your way home
The last way you want to end your night out is with a three-mile hike back to your dorm. So don’t just stroll out the door with no plan for how to get back. If you’ll be drinking, find a designated driver, or make sure you have enough money for the ride back. It’s also a good idea to leave with a friend to make the trip safer, and less boring.
If you drank water last night, good morning! If you didn’t, I have no sympathy, you brought this on yourself. Even if you did drink water though, you still may need to recover. Drinking alcohol depletes many of your body’s essential vitamins and minerals, and a deficiency in any one of them can have unpleasant effects. Eat a balanced breakfast with plenty of fruits and veggies, or now you can take that shot of wheatgrass.