For many students, the last week of the academic year will have been a blur of vodka shots, loud music and greasy kebabs. After all, when all the hard work of exams is done, students will play. The student experience seems to come hand in hand with alcohol… not so for all of Swansea’s students. One of The Waterfront’s News Editors, Adele MacGregor, was keen to explore this alternative avenue, speaking to one individual who chooses to abstain from your stereotypical student behavior…

by Adele MacGregor

The lovely subject of today's post, Aiden Ramsey

For a vast majority of students, University social life is made up of cheap drinks, legendary nights out nobody can recollect, tagged pictures on Facebook you forget were taken and dread to view, lost keys, junk food, stealing traffic cones and street signs, crying, laughing, singing, waking up in a strange house and trying to piece together the evening as though you’re starring in The Hangover. But what about the students who choose not to drink while at University? I spoke to second year Zoology student and President of the Conservation and Ecology Society at Swansea University, Aiden Ramsey, who has abstained from alcohol for three years, embracing a form of the straight edge lifestyle.

The straight edge scene began in Washington DC in the late 70s. Unsatisfied with the hedonistic lifestyle of the punk scene, a new wave of bands emerged promoting a drug free youth, making an attempt to give young people a new image by refusing alcohol, tobacco and drugs (and in some cases rejecting promiscuous sex and embracing a vegetarianism or vegan lifestyle). The ‘X’ symbol, often found drawn or tattooed on the back of the hand, was adopted by the movement, originating from the mark given to minors at “all ages” gigs so that they could be identified at the bar and refused alcohol.

Ramsey quit drinking in September 2008 at the age of seventeen, feeling the need to adhere to a more healthy lifestyle and cut out drinking and drugs completely. He told The Siren: “I had reached a point in my teens when I was drinking more than I should, in addition to occasional narcotic use.” Like a vast majority of teenagers, Ramsey felt he lacked a certain sense of self-control; but unlike the majority, Ramsey was fascinated by the straight-edge culture from the start, and this included the music scene as well as the strong morals associated with the movement. For Ramsey: “My decision to become part of the straight-edge movement meant more than avoiding alcohol and narcotics”.

Unfortunately there is a certain amount of stigma attached to the straight-edge life style, having been adopted by followers of the ‘Emo’ sub-culture and others who often misunderstand the core concepts of the lifestyle, viewing it as nothing more than a status symbol among peers. “The straight edge culture has been portrayed has given individuals a skewed look of the lifestyle”, said Ramsey, further stating the movement is sadly often viewed as juvenile and attention seeking.

Many students, especially here at Swansea, may find the notion of abstaining from alcohol strange, especially during one’s university years. Yet despite never having the experience of clubbing or a University night under the influence of alcohol, Ramsey affirms he is perfectly able to enjoy himself sober. Having the advantage of being more aware of his surroundings, he often notes the change he sees in the people around him as they continue to consume alcohol throughout the night, relying on drinking to enjoy themselves and maintain a sense of self-confidence. With regard to his own self-confidence, Ramsey feels nights out are more manageable once everyone else has been drinking, finding it easier to relax “once you know people aren’t fully paying attention”.

Ramsey also told The Siren, “I would like to think I will never return to drinking but I have no idea of what will happen in the future”. He insists that his friends have been supportive and hopes that he remains straight edge, stating he is far better without alcohol in his life, overcoming the confidence issue with alcohol and partaking in a healthier lifestyle for the better.

While straight edge is something Ramsey takes seriously, he admits the lifestyle is not for everyone; but he believes it’s always worth giving it a try, at least once.

Aiden Ramsey’s case is just one example of why students may choose to abstain from taking part in the more alcoholic side of the student lifestyle. There are plenty of other reasons, whether they’re health issues or religious beliefs. What are your thoughts? Comment below, shoot us an email (thesirenswansea at hotmail.co.uk), Tweet or Facebook us; as always, we’re all ears.

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