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Alcohol abroad: Fewer students drink to excess while away

By Bonnie Meibers, Senior Staff Writer

An ongoing study has uncovered that Miami students are wilder in the United States when they drink underage than when traveling abroad at the legal drinking age.

Maura Fawcett is a junior currently studying in Luxembourg through the Miami University John E. Dolibois European Center (MUDEC). She recently sent out three surveys to gather data on study abroad habits and trends, specifically drinking motives.

"I want to figure out how students' drinking behaviors change and what motives fuel the change," Fawcett said.

Fawcett's anonymous surveys were sent to students studying abroad in semester-long programs. The first was sent out to students before they left for the semester, a second during the trip and a third will be sent once they have returned home.

"Based purely on my observations, it seems like students drink on more occasions but fewer drinks each time," Fawcett said.

Many students, like 20-year-old junior, Savanna Kuertz, agree. Kuertz studied abroad in Paris, France last semester, where the legal drinking age is 18.

"I found that my peers and I drank more calmly and less," she said.

Kuertz feels that many Americans come to college without much expericing drinking alcohol, causing them to go overboard when drinking.

In many other cultures, alcohol is served at almost every meal so young adults are more knowledgeable about alcohol and know their limits when they turn the legal drinking age. In Europe, there is a greater appreciation for alcohol. In fact, many restaurants have their own brand of beer. Alcohol is consumed because people enjoy the taste, not because they want to feel drunk.

"I feel like drinking is an important part of the culture and that alcohol is to be enjoyed rather than consumed for the sole purpose of intoxication," Kuertz said.

It is commonplace to see drunken people in American bars. This is especially true of bars near college campuses because in American culture, alcohol is often consumed with the motive of feeling drunk. In Europe, however, this is not the case.

"It is very rare to see a drunk European at a bar, and if you are drunk it makes you clearly stand out, which isn't always a good thing," Fawcett said.

Fawcett said lower alcohol prices, trying new alcoholic beverages and unfamiliarity with the area are reasons for the need to drink more responsibly abroad.

"It'd actually be cheaper to have a beer at dinner than drink water," said Tre Clifton, a Miami senior studying abroad in Luxembourg.

There is also a contrast in the behaviors of underage students versus students over 21. Fawcett said her research shows that students under 21 who travel abroad tend to be wilder when they arrive in Europe.

"It is such a novelty to be able to legally order drinks and know you will not get in trouble," Fawcett said. "Based on my observations there is a difference in the drinking [habits] between people who were 21 before they came [abroad] and people who were underage."

In Oxford, underage students cannot order alcohol at bars, so they drink heavily before going out in order to stay drunk all night. According to Clifton, since many Miami students take classes on the Luxembourg campus, most weekends in Luxembourg are similar to weekends in Oxford. However, in Luxembourg, students under 21 can buy drinks at bars.

"Miami students will be Miami students," he said.

Fawcett's observations supported this. She says that when a lot of Miami students are together, there is more drinking because they feel safe surrounded by their classmates.

Because Fawcett's final survey will not be given to students until after the semester ends, what really happens when students return is unknown.

"I am not sure what the results will be," Fawcett said. "I think that once taken out of the study abroad environment that people will fall back into old habits whatever they are."