Last week, while waiting outside a tutorial, I met a fellow second-year arts student. We struck up a conversation about the similar tote bags we both carried and the conversation – although very surface-level – was rather pleasant. Things took a strange turn, though, as within a matter of minutes she was divulging to me an incredibly detailed story about how she had been on ketamine at Trinity Ball and lost a small bag, which contained her other drugs for the night, while waiting for the portaloo. I, with little as exciting to compete with, earnestly tried to steer the conversation back to our matching bags – with little success.
Maybe I’m naive, but apart from the occasional person bringing some wacky backy to a party, who may have desperately needed it, drugs were not terribly common in my secondary school. Although everyone knew someone who had gone to Amsterdam and had a bad time with some brownies, we weren’t a group that was about to split a bag of snow for our leaving certificate results night. It was all fairly tame, and pretty innocent, and it wasn’t until my great, cross-country move for college that I realised that drugs really play a large role in the lives of Irish students.
Gone were the days of a simple naggin of vodka and room-temperature coke for a wild night on the town. Instead, many once-innocent babes of the country like me seemed to have fully stuck their nose into (pardon the pun) the student drug scene. Now, I know that not every student is on ketamine for a few quiet pints in the Pav, but the sheer amount of people I know who have at least tried a hard drug is still quite shocking to me. It’s not just the fact that most have tried them – it’s that they will freely discuss them like they’re a bargain student lunch deal they just discovered.
Experimentation with drugs is often just one of the things some students will explore at college – they might also test new waters through their relationships, clothing choices or maybe the occasional dabble in veganism. So naturally, as well as discussing the pros and cons of MDMA over ketamine on a night out, they’ll also freely discuss sex and relationships too.
Coming from the west – the land of panoramic views and the sexually repressed – it is always a welcome surprise to hear people talking about their escapades
Coming from the west – the land of panoramic views and the sexually repressed – it is always a welcome surprise to hear people talking about their escapades from the night before, without needing at least four pints to divulge a single detail. Back home, many blushed at even the sheer mention of kissing someone on a night out. In contrast with this, the culture of free love in college life is frankly, a breath of fresh air.
Maybe this will lead to a rise in STDs or some other unsettling side-effect, but it’s also a welcome sign that as a country, we’re finally freeing ourselves from the shackles of Catholic guilt, and a state of constant embarrassment and shame in relation to any form of affection whatsoever.
You could call me a prude, because I probably am one, and I’m probably incredibly naive too, but I really didn’t anticipate such a stark difference between the life of a secondary school student and that of a college student. It’s not like in your CAO offer comes with a guidebook on the easiest way to snort a line or source the morning after pill in a hurry, so I imagine many end up slightly dumbfounded at this new way of life.
When you have no experience with drug and sex culture, it’s much easier to end up in situations you may not want to be in, only because that’s what seems to be the norm. No one wants to be the person who doesn’t know the difference between a 25 bag and a 50 bag, and the expectation that most have fully immersed themselves in this way of life can make first-timers embarrassed to educate themselves on what exactly they are getting themselves involved in.
It’s nothing new, and drugs will probably always have their place in college life, but that doesn’t stop country bumpkins like me getting a slight shock at being thrown into the drug-filled deep-end in college. More than anything, it’s important to remember that being young isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. There is, of course, a lack of adequate housing, surging numbers of cases of mental illness and the permanent reminder that the world is probably going to swallow us up like the Kraken in Pirates of the Carribean in a matter of years. Young people are desperate for an outlet, and perhaps the odd drug and one-night stand seem like the only feasible resolution. Whether you agree with it or not, they’re a part of what it means to be a young person today, and they’re not going away anytime soon.