Students Studying Abroad Hit the Booze Harder

Students who study abroad learn lots about partying. In addition to learning a language and experiencing a new culture, these students more than double their alcohol consumption, according to a recent survey by the University of Washington. The results showed that the students’ drinking increased by 105% while studying abroad.

Researchers gave a survey to 177 Washington students who spent three to five months studying in other countries. Two weeks before departure, the students were asked how many drinks they consumed each week, how much they planned to drink while they were abroad, and how they perceived the drinking habits of other students studying overseas. A month after returning to campus, the students completed surveys about how much they drank while abroad and how much they were currently drinking.

Not only did the students drink 105 percent more, researchers found the underage students in the survey nearly tripled their booze intake. Apparently, the students under the legal drinking age of 21 in the U.S. learned to enjoy the freedoms of drinking legally abroad. For all students, the heaviest drinking took place in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, with lesser amounts consumed in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.

Why the increase in alcohol intake? The survey lists multiple factors including lower drinking age, different cultural norms, and misconceptions of foreign drinking habits. Also, most students reported having a lighter school workload abroad than at home, thus allowing them more time to party.

In most cases, the students surveyed did readjust their drinking habits after returning home. Still, this change doesn’t negate the possible consequences of heavy drinking while abroad. In addition to missing classes due to hangovers, intoxicated students are more likely to injure themselves, create legal problems with a foreign government, or promote negative stereotypes of U.S. students.

Studying abroad can be a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow, so long as sufficient time is spent outside of the bars. Before sending your kids on what could be the experience of a lifetime, parents should be aware of students’ actual agendas.  You may envision the kids sampling the French cuisine, speaking the French language, and engaging in the French culture… when all they’re really focusing on is chugging the French wine.

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2 Comments

  • While I know from first-hand experience that many students studying abroad do drink much more, it is completely unfair to say that ALL they are focusing on is drinking. We all had a few days where we were hungover during class or an excursion, but we did take in the new culture, the new language, the new food, and the absolutely amazing sights. I don’t believe that a single student in my program studied abroad solely to party.

    For many students it was their first experience being able to legally drink or even being out from under the control of parents, and this did lead to them drinking more; however, in a town where none of us knew anyone, going out at night was also a way to practice our language skills and meet new people, and drinking happens to go along with that. In addition, a student doubling his/her alcohol intake isn’t always as dramatic as it sounds. Some students went from drinking once a week to drinking every other night, but I went from drinking once a month to drinking once every week or two. Some students went from never drinking to having a glass of wine once or twice a week.

  • [quote]For many students it was their first experience being able to legally drink or even being out from under the control of parents, and this did lead to them drinking more; however, in a town where none of us knew anyone, going out at night was also a way to practice our language skills and meet new people, and drinking happens to go along with that. In addition, a student doubling his/her alcohol intake isn’t always as dramatic as it sounds. Some students went from drinking once a week to drinking every other night, but I went from drinking once a month to drinking once every week or two. Some students went from never drinking to having a glass of wine once or twice a week. [/quote]

    So very true! Underage students aren’t suppose to drink…so when you go from one ‘ilegal’ drink here and there to one ‘legal’ drink a week, you have more than double your alcohol intake!

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