Let’s face it: NYU students drink during Welcome Week. Despite the university’s well-intentioned attempts to prevent freshmen from consuming alcohol, 18-year-olds are clever and the idea of a booze-free first week of college is probably something that only exists in the imaginations of overprotective parents. As a 19-year-old freshman from the United Kingdom, many of my English friends have already finished their first year of university. It is interesting to think about my friends’ first weeks of college in the U.K. compared to my NYU Welcome Week experience.
The legal drinking age in Britain is 18, meaning the vast majority of U.K. freshmen arrive at university, unpack their bags and head for the nearest pub. The first week of university always causes anxiety and, like people over the world, many British students drown their fears with alcohol. I have many English friends who cannot remember their freshmen orientation — they said goodbye to their parents and woke up a week later with sore heads. The entire foundation of making friends and fitting in is focused on alcohol. Clubs in the area will host countless alcohol-fueled event nights where students are encouraged to socialize, drink together and meet new people.
The English’s liberal attitude toward drinking has its advantages, but it is only in comparing my friends’ experiences in Britain to my NYU Welcome Week that I have come to appreciate the many benefits to student life within the parameters of a higher drinking age. Most English colleges only organize a few student activities during the first week, knowing that the students will be too hungover to enjoy them. For the class of 2018, NYU arranged more than 500 events over five days, from epic ninja fights in Washington Square Park to a “Toy Story” marathon. A Welcome Week app was created for students and was updated daily with details about events taking place over this amazing city. The superiority of our Welcome Week is largely related to its lack of sanctioned alcohol consumption. The assumption in the U.K. that most students’ main priority during the first week of school is drinking leads universities to abdicate Welcome Week efforts to pints of beer. Conversely, the 21-and-over drinking age compels American colleges to make a substantial effort in arranging an entertaining first week where students can engage with each other without a nearly unilateral focus on alcohol — a situation that would be unheard of anywhere in the United Kingdom.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 8 print edition. Email Scarlett Curtis at [email protected]