Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Seven-Day Weekend, Part Deux

When last I spoke to you about student drinking abroad, I gave you a plethora of reasons why students ramp up their alcohol consumption abroad. Yes, a plethora. Reasons included easier access to alcohol,  pressures related to being in a new country, and college drinking culture. Today, we’ll look at a few more reasons students might drink to excess abroad, including America’s drinking culture, and the drinking culture of the host country. Then we’ll be talking about why it’s a bad idea to abuse alcohol abroad, such as how you can die. Yikes. Finally, I’ll tell you how you can enjoy alcohol responsibly abroad, because we still like to have fun here. 
I mentioned a little bit about the psychological factors that cause college students to turn to alcohol, but now we are going to discuss the culture revolving around alcohol in the United States. Simply put, compared to other countries our attitude regarding alcohol is very immature. The United States has the highest drinking age of any developed country. Because of this, alcohol receives this mysterious status among those not yet old enough to drink it. Young people don’t have the opportunity to learn responsible drinking habits. In most other cultures, drinking is a small, social activity that’s typically done over a meal. People will have only a few drinks, and not become very intoxicated, if at all. Here in the U.S., drinking is usually the entire point of the social activity, and moderation is hardly considered. I personally know many people who can’t even fathom having only a few drinks. To them, if they drink, they drink until they pass out. Partying is practically a culture in itself. 
U mad, bro?

Other regions of the world have their own drinking cultures as well, though they are usually more apt to consume beer responsibly. Sometimes an American student might want to learn about alcohol in their host country. This is also something I’ve seen myself. Students will have the need to sample every type of alcohol they can get their hands on. You know, for science.

 Students studying in France or Spain, for example, will want to sample as many wines as possible. Those studying in Japan will have to try the sake. You can’t go to Japan and not try sake. Maybe that’s true, or maybe that’s just what they’re telling themselves, but either way, they’re going to drink more for that reason. 
I'd be happy just to have the bottle and not drink it. It looks so cool!
There’s also the factor of wanting to visit many different drinking establishments. Small taverns usually have their own little quirks, and by visiting them in foreign countries you can learn a lot about the local culture. The photos on the wall, the decorations, everything has a story behind it, and the locals will gladly talk about it over a pint of beer. Then there’s the giant nightclubs that try to attract tourists with flair. Crazy architecture, flying trapeze, giant birdcages, waterfalls, lightshows, or a fantastic view of the city, these places are indeed places to see, and students will definitely drink up while they’re there. On the other hand, though, the exorbitant prices of the drinks might actually deter a lot of would be drinkers. 
Although the lasers are probably heating up the room, so maybe you should drink something just to stay hydrated.
If a student does make a connection with a local over a drink, they’ll want to learn about the drinking customs of their new-found friend. There might be certain social protocols that one must follow when drinking. Or, for example, it’s common in Europe to open a beer bottle with any hard, flat object. Some can even open a beer bottle with yet another beer bottle. Learning these things requires a lot of practice, and therefore a lot of drinking. Unless they don’t drink the beer bottle after opening, but that would waste the beer, and despite study abroad being more affordable than you might think, it’s still not good to be wasteful. 
So now we know why students are so apt to drink during their time studying abroad. But is it really such a big deal? Why shouldn’t they just drink and drink and drink and drink? It’s not like that ever has any negative consequences. 
Oh, don't mind me.
We’re going to talk about the negative consequences of student overuse of alcohol abroad now. First and foremost, and scariest, death. Yes, it happens. While not specific to study abroad, during a given year 1,825 college students between 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related incidents. Some of those deaths were from acute-alcohol intoxication, or alcohol poisoning. That’s when a person drinks so much alcohol that their body shuts down, and they die. It happened to Kinara Patel, a student from New Jersey, and Kenny Hummel, a student from Washington. Other alcohol-related deaths occur from injury, such as motor vehicle accidents, or falling. Students abroad are just as at risk as they are at home, if not more so. 
There is another danger with alcohol that is seldom discussed, but worthy of concern. That is the danger of being served “fake alcohol”. Fake alcohol is a concoction made from a chemical base, such as methanol, or rubbing alcohol, or ethylene glycol, and sold as a real distilled beverage. Occasionally, even more harmful chemicals are added. This is a problem in the United States, as well as in places like the United Kingdom and China. Why it is especially of concern to students studying abroad is that they might not be aware of the warning signs of fake alcohol. The warning signs include badly-placed labels, misspelled labels, bottles that appear to have been tampered with, and an off taste.
Seems legit.

 For study abroad students, everything’s new. They might be willing to accept those signs as normal, and having never sampled local spirits before they might not notice that the taste is completely wrong. One woman traveling in Asia actually died from being poisoned by fake alcohol. 
Alcohol consumption also increases the risk of being the victim of crime abroad. The Foreign Office of the United Kingdom recognized this, and provided an information campaign for its citizens. They printed messages such as “Drinking makes you more vulnerable to violent crime” and “Rape can happen on holiday too” on beer coasters and Frisbees, and these messages are just as relevant to Americans traveling abroad. In general, alcohol allows us to partake in riskier behavior, not thinking of the consequences. Studying abroad is itself a risk, so I won’t say to avoid risk. But as I’ve learned in my business classes, risk also carries reward. Risk should not necessarily be avoided, risk should be managed, and managing risk is far more challenging when under the influence of alcohol. 
Speaking of alcohol, and managing things, remember that pesky word “study” in “study abroad”? It turns out students are actually expected to go to classes and learn things. I know, it’s a pain, and you know what else is a pain? A hangover. Being dead tired. Simply put, it’s harder to manage the academics of study abroad with constant binge-drinking. It’s harder to manage academics anywhere, period.
Full stop.
I’m just going to leave this here. It’s the academic consequences of binge drinking for U.S. students, and for students studying abroad the results would be much the same. 
So after all this, you might think that I am totally against students drinking while studying abroad. That’s actually not the case! If someone wishes to drink abroad, they should be free to do so. If you can legally sample German beer, French wine or Scotch whiskey, and you want to try it, do it. But please be responsible. 
Here’s some general tips on managing alcohol use from me. I mean, I’m not expert, but… Okay, I’m kind of an expert. 
  1. Remember you don’t have to drink. 
  1. There are plenty of ways to have fun without alcohol! Go hiking, sightseeing, visit a church or temple, an amusement park, toss a Frisbee around, draw a picture, see a movie… Be creative! 
  1. Be wary of peer pressure. If your friends only like you when you’re drinking, they’re not very good friends.
  2. Do not fall for the "All or nothing" false dilemma. It's okay to just drink a little bit.
  3. Remember the dates of exams to keep them passable. If you really need to study, you should probably study, and anything beyond a small amount of alcohol makes studying difficult. 
  1. Always have a plan. 
  1. It's dangerous to go alone! Bring friends! 
  1. How are you getting home? Taxi? Bus? 
  1. Who knows how to get home? That person should remain sober enough to guide the group home. Preferably completely sober. 
  1. Be mindful of what else you're putting in your body. 
  1. Get your mind out of the gutter, I'm not talking about THAT! 
  1. Well, okay, you should be mindful when it comes to matters of sex, but that's not what I'm talking about. 
  1. Alcohol really shouldn't be mixed with other drugs. In fact, illegal drugs shouldn't be taken, period, but if you do, keep it separate. But don't do it. 
  1. Be careful when mixing alcohol with energy drinks. I'm actually really guilty of breaking this rule myself. Those tiny bottles of the original Thai Red Bull or SO tempting during a night out on the town.... 
  1. The amount and kinds of food in your stomach will affect alcohol absorption.  
  1. Know your limits 
  1. “Catching a buzz” is okay. Just be cognizant enough to be able to make smart decisions.  
  1. Don’t drink and drive. Ever. THAT INCLUDES ON SCOOTERS AND MOPEDS!
Not even if you're as cool as this guy.

  1. Check out these other great tips. 

After a night of drinking responsibly, you may be tempted in to treating yourself to a late-night snack. Maybe something greasy, maybe something familiar. Well, McDonald's is greasy and familiar, and it's all over the globe! But, depending on where you are, the local menu can have some quite unfamiliar items. Next time, I'll bring you interesting McDonald's items from around the world for you to sample while you study abroad. 
Did you miss me?

1 comment:

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