6 Steps To Alcohol Safety When Studying Abroad
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6 Steps To Alcohol Safety When Studying Abroad

Studying abroad can be an exciting time, especially for those who are under 21, but drinking comes with dangers, especially in a foreign country.

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6 Steps To Alcohol Safety When Studying Abroad

If you've studied abroad or are making plans to, you've probably been told to be careful around alcohol - especially if you are underage in the United States. Students (including myself) never listen to this piece of advice, but I am here to tell you, from a student's perspective, to actually listen!

Last year, on a study abroad trip to England, a group of friends and I went out for a classmate's birthday. A lot of dancing and several shots of vodka later, I was having a great time but was in no shape to figure out how to get back to our hostel. Luckily, I was with a group of awesome people who mapped out our bus route and got everyone back in one piece.

Everything ended up being okay in this situation, but in hindsight, it was very irresponsible. I had just met my classmates and had no idea if they would be trustworthy companions. Also, being in a foreign country in a club you've never been to before is not a super great place to get drunk enough that you could be vulnerable to shady strangers. Again, I had wonderful travel buddies and ended up having a fun and safe night, but there is a different ending to that story in an alternate universe somewhere. I should have been much smarter about drinking in an unfamiliar place.

Luckily, you can learn from my carelessness! In just six easy steps, crafted from my own experience, you can make a plan for a safe and enjoyable experience consuming alcohol while studying abroad.

1. Research drinking culture in the country you're visiting.

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U.S. college students are known for their habits of binge-drinking and partying. Around the world, though, this is not always the norm. In some European countries, for example, having a glass of wine with dinner or going out for a beer is very common, but drinking liquor and drinking to get drunk are not. Don't be that obnoxious, drunk American who embarrasses themselves and annoys all the locals. Do your research and assimilate with your host culture.

2. Drink in a safe and familiar place.

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If you're looking to have more than one or two drinks, consider staying in at your place of residence or a friend's (as long as you're not staying with a host family - that would be rude!) rather than going out where you're more likely to make a fool of yourself and/or get lost. If you do go out, hit up the bar that's just down the street instead of six bus stops away, so it will be quick and easy for you to get home. Finally, get a local's recommendation or do some research online to make sure you're headed to a place that's safe and well-reviewed.

3. Set boundaries before you start.

Spoiler alert: the limit does exist!

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Once you start drinking, it can seem like a good idea to drink more and more. Avoid this urge by setting rules for yourself before you go out (i.e. only beer tonight; no liquor, or, no more than two shots tonight). You'll be more likely to stick to your limits if you are firm on them before you even start drinking.

4. Have a buddy that you trust.

Don't drink alone! (Shot at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter in London.)

Going out with a friend or a group of friends (as long as they are trustworthy) is always safer than going out alone. A friend can watch your bag while you go to the bathroom, help you get out of an uncomfortable conversation, keep you from making bad decisions, and, if worst comes to very worst, one of you can get the other home safely. Even if everyone stays sober, having others with you is always a good precaution because you look less vulnerable to predators and can defend each other and look out for each other if anything scary happens.

5. Plan your route home ahead of time.

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Finding your way around a foreign country is hard enough without also being intoxicated! In order to prevent drunkenly getting lost in a foreign country, make sure you know how to get back to your place of residence from wherever you're going out. Then, write this down somewhere on your person (i.e. have a note on your phone with the address of the nearest bus stop, which route you need to get on, and what stop you'll need to get off on), just in case you have a bit too much to drink and would otherwise be challenged in trying to find the proper route home. Also, if you plan to use public transport, make sure you check when the last bus or train is for the night so you don't get stranded at 3 a.m.!

6. Use your head!

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Finally, of course, be safe and smart just like you would anywhere else! Don't drink from a glass you've set down or walked away from, and be cautious of the people around you. If something doesn't feel right, there's nothing wrong with leaving - you owe it to no one to stay.

Most of the time drinking (especially cautiously) can be a fun way to meet locals and make friends. However, when you're in a foreign country, there's also a higher risk of being targeted for trafficking and other vile things, especially if you look like a tourist or are made extra vulnerable by being under the influence.

Studying abroad is supposed to be a fun and life-changing experience, both inside and outside the classroom! Don't jeopardize this literal world of possibilities by drinking irresponsibly. With this six-step plan and a little common sense, you'll be (safely) making friends with the locals in the pubs of your host country like a pro!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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