Enjoy life away from the lecture halls
College days and nights are there to be enjoyed, but keep your friends close and your phone charged, writes students' leader, Lorna Fitzpatrick
It is that time of year when the CAO offers are coming out and you are starting to look for college accommodation or figure out your transport routes to and from college. You are entering into a new stage of life - you are about to be a college student. For most, college is the most self-defining time of life and certainly the most fun - but there are elements of college life that aren't spoken about enough, so let's start the dialogue.
Sex, drugs, rock & roll
All of the above aren't for everyone, don't ever feel pressured to get involved in anything you aren't comfortable with. One of the perks of college is that individuality is celebrated, you don't have to do what your friends are doing. If you do, safety is encouraged - fill your bag, wallet and pockets with condoms, ask consent and only give it when you are comfortable to give it, enjoy your night-life but keep your friends close and your phone charged.
It has to be consensual. End of story. Consent means saying 'Yes' to sex, foreplay or anything intimate. Consent doesn't have a gender - no matter who you are getting freaky with, you have to ask permission and if the answer is no, you have to stop. Consent is retractable, you can take it back at any time if you are not feeling good about the situation. You must also respect the other person's right to retract consent at any time during any sexual activity.
Sex is fantastic, but what's even better is sex with contraception. There is nothing quite like waking up in the morning knowing you were protected from contracting a STI! Did you know that your Students' Union have cheap (and sometimes free) condoms?
Put that on top of the agenda on your first day of college, head into your SU and get the protection you need before Freshers' Week! Still not sure how to put on a condom? You're not the only one - there are instructions with condoms so read over them, look up a YouTube tutorial, and practice at home with a banana - just stay protected!
We're not here to tell you what to take or what not to take, but if you do decide to take drugs - take precautionary measures. There is nothing fun about taking too many drugs or a bad batch. Keep your friends close to you and stay hydrated. Don't accept anything from strangers and always try your best to identify what it is you are taking and how strong it is. You should always keep your phone charged on a night out in case anything goes wrong so you can contact emergency services.
If you do choose to have a few drinks, then enjoy them! Know your limit and don't be afraid to take a break from drinking, having a glass of water after every two or three drinks could help you enjoy your night even more. You don't want to end up having the best night ever but not remembering it. Stay with your friends but if you are going off somewhere, let one of your friends know. It can be handy to keep some emergency money in a different section of your purse or wallet to get a taxi home if you need it. Also, to help avoid the banging headache the next day, have a pint of water before you go to sleep - I can't promise it will make you feel 100pc, but it won't make you feel any worse!
Lorna Fitzpatrick is president of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI)