Study abroad programs offer increasing numbers of college students the opportunity to be immersed in a new culture, learn a foreign language and travel around the world.  According to recent studies, study abroad programs also afford them the opportunity to increase their alcohol consumption. 

In a study following 177 overseas scholars, University of Washington researchers found that students doubled how much they typically drank, with underage students nearly tripling their alcohol intake. When surveyed before they departed, students reported consuming an average of four alcoholic drinks per week. That number jumped to eight drinks per week while abroad.  Local culture influenced the results, with those traveling to Europe, Australia or New Zealand drinking more heavily than those who studied in Africa, Latin America, Asia or the Middle East.

In Europe, meals often include a glass of wine or beer, which could easily lead to drinking more than while at home. At the same time, study abroad students could be in a “spring break” mindset while traveling, contributing to binge drinking. A recent NPR article detailed that the increased number of reports of widespread binge drinking and rowdy behavior by American students studying in Florence is causing concern among locals witnessing these “students gone wild” antics. 

Along with the risks of binge drinking in general, study abroad students face broader dangers.  Students are unfamiliar with their surroundings and may face a language barrier.  In addition, a lack of knowledge about the laws or local customs can lead to legal trouble or dangerous situations. If students lose all their inhibitions, unfortunate drinking experiences can subvert the overall great opportunity to expand their personal horizons.

Photo by I Woke Up Today.


About The Author

Christie Erdman, a guest contributor to the Healthy Travel blog, is a recent graduate of the University of Richmond with a degree in Economics and Marketing. She enjoys traveling, and had the opportunity to spend a semester studying at Universita Bocconi in Milan, Italy during her junior year.

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