by Angelita Williams, Online College Courses
A recent study shows that American students who study abroad consume twice as much alcohol in their host country as they would at home. The reasons for this are fairly obvious. For one, America is alone in having a legal drinking age of 21, and a good portion of American students are under the legal drinking age when they set off on their study abroad adventure. Thus, alcohol is a novelty, and the “forbidden fruit” is finally available to them without being confined to a dorm party or having to resort to using questionable fake IDs. Some have also speculated that the reasons for international drinking stem from being in a new environment. As someone who embarked on two study abroad programs as a student, one of which was faculty-led, I can say without a doubt that faculty play an important role in curbing student alcohol consumption. Here are a few tips from my own experiences:
1. Talk to your students about alcohol before going abroad
During orientation sessions, I think it is especially important for faculty to engage their students about the dangers of excessive drinking before studying abroad. While most study abroad orientations broach the subject in one way or another, it is usually only mentioned in passing. Highlighting not only the dangers but indicating what students will miss, if they spend most of their free time drinking, is usually a better, more persuasive approach with youths who “typically” have no fear.
2. Require that students keep a journal in which they reflect on their experiences daily
During my faculty-led study abroad experience, students were asked to keep a journal in which they reported experiences that enhanced their personal development and cultural understanding. We were required to write substantive entries in our journals on a daily basis and we would share them at the end of the day. While requiring a journal may seem unrelated to curbing alcohol consumption, I believe it does help indirectly because students must seek out opportunities for cultural immersion outside the classroom every day, which encourages students to engage in activities that go beyond hitting the clubs at night.
3. Be on the lookout for extra-curricular activities that keep students busy
While it may be true that American students studying internationally drink because they can’t at home, I think another reason for excessive student drinking is nothing better to do. At their home institutions, students are usually engaged in several extra-curricular activities; while abroad, students may not see or find as many, or the same, opportunities. When I was studying in Russia, however, our faculty advisor found several activities for us that required out of school participation, such as volunteering at orphanages and museums and helping Russian students with their English in a tutoring program that the professor organized herself. Finding and creating opportunities for your students to engage with their host country, outside the classroom, is a great way to keep your students busy.
These are only a few ideas that may help your students to make the most of their study abroad experience. Above all, however, I think it’s important to emphasize what a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity studying abroad is, one that will be difficult to relive out of school. Many of my friends who studied abroad as undergraduates now have expressed regret that they spent most of their time in bars and clubs. As a faculty advisor, you have the influence to help change what could be your students’ alcohol-soaked months-long vacation into an experience that is truly cross-cultural.
This guest post was contributed by Angelita Williams, who writes for online college courses. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: angelita.williams7 @gmail.com.