Let’s Talk About Drinking
Drinking can be a great way to hang out with friends, see the city, and even meet some new people. However, it’s not without problems. Questions of health and safety should be addressed before a student considers going out. Drinking as it relates to study abroad is an incredibly important and unjustly taboo subject. Here are my tips based on my personal experience from my year abroad in Europe.
- Don’t go home alone
I’m not saying you shouldn’t leave the club without a hookup; I’m saying go out with a pal and a plan. I don’t go out unless I have a “buddy”. We both agree not to leave without the other person and to NEVER let each other walk home alone. I’m studying in Clermont-Ferrand, France. I can honestly say that this city feels very safe (though I’m usually a safety-nut) and scary situations are not the norm here. It’s a college town, much like Norman and there are plenty of bars and nightclubs that cater to students. Despite all of this, it only takes one bad experience to realize that being drunk and alone in the early hours of the morning on a dark street is a terrible idea. Having a designated going-out buddy helps to keep you safe and you always have someone to grab a kebab with before heading home.
- Know Yourself (Drake reference)
Coming from a country where the legal drinking age is 21 and my university campus is officially “dry” means that my experience with alcohol consumption as a 19 year-old was relatively limited. I would recommend that students test the waters first. Starting out with beer or cider (which is basically adult apple juice) can help you to realize your limits. Besides, you can slowly increase your consumption until you find your limit but you can’t take back those tequila shots that seemed like a great idea at the beginning of the night. Most evenings out in my experience go like this: pre-gaming (whether at home or at a friend’s place) followed by a trip to a bar or club. Being too drunk before you even head out to the club is absolutely awful and your night will probably end early.
- Money matters
A lot of places here in France have a minimum amount you have to spend if paying by card. Paying with cash is usually much easier and you can physically see how much you’ve spent that night. I usually take a limited amount of cash with me for safety and to ensure that I don’t regret spending too much on alcohol. (Sidenote: alcohol is expensive, especially at a bar.) I usually prefer to buy less expensive alcohol (like Sangria, wine, or Desperados) so that I don’t buy as much when I’m out and about.
- Bread is your BFF
A baguette of considerable size costs .35 cents at the grocery store. If alcohol is a car, bread is the breaks and the suspension. Having a full stomach can help control the rate of inebriation and makes for an all-around smoother experience. Seriously, please eat.
- Be able to say no
Everyone handles alcohol differently and what’s right for some isn’t right for others. If you’re going out several times a week and find that you’re not sleeping well, you’re consistently hungover, you’re missing classes or neglecting homework then you need to start reevaluating the place that partying has in your life. It can be super tempting to go out on Tuesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday but the party will still be there. Staying home because you need the sleep or you have an upcoming presentation is absolutely acceptable and you’re not missing out. Your friends will understand. Not everyone can stay out until 5 am and be ready for an 8:15 class, much less do this multiple times a week.
Drinking and going out is an awesome part of the study abroad experience, and some of my favorite memories are from nights out with my friends. However at the end of the day, you are there to study and to learn. If you’re going abroad, it’s probable that you’ll drink. The key is to be informed, self-aware, and safe.