Friday, November 12, 2010

Report Students Studying Abroad on Average Double Or Triple Their Alcoholic Intake

Posted by Peter Quennell

American embassies and other nations’ embassies abroad get to hear of hundreds of cases a year of students who got in over their heads.

In the past couple of years, there have been TWO notorious murders by foreign students in Florence alone. Florence is about one hour’s drive north of Perugia. The embassy simply shrugged and moved on as Italian justice worked its careful process through.

Both perps happened to be American, and both were high. There were no cries in those cases of anti-Americanism. Howvever, there was some troubled talk in Italy of the excesses foreign students go to.

And a lot of tightening up by the colleges who send a lot of students abroad, including the University of Washington (Amanda Knox’s college) and Pepperdine University (Steve Moore’s former college - this helped to seal his firing.)

Amanda Knox is one of the rare ones who shrugged off all home-college supervision, presumably with the okay of her parents. Meredith was closely watched over by the Erasmus scheme, which sadly did not save her life.

Now the University of Southern California’s student newspaper carries this report on one root cause of students facing foreign judges.

Students traveling abroad can keep glass half full

By Kelsey Clark of the Daily Trojan

According to researchers at the University of Washington, American college students who study abroad are likely to increase “” even triple “” their alcohol consumption while traveling internationally.

Students over the age of 21 doubled their intake of alcohol from an average of four drinks per week on campus to eight drinks per week abroad, according to a study published in the October issue of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. The overall increase in surveyed students’ alcohol consumption was 105 percent, while those underage students tripled their drinking with an increased consumption of 170 percent….

By consuming alcohol in excess, particularly in an unfamiliar country, the risks for students are greater than those traditionally associated with a night of drinking at USC.

Though instances of injury, crime and sexual abuse do occur as a result of binge drinking at USC, such severe ramifications are comparatively rare within the university’s party culture. Some of the more prevalent woes are students who slept through class because of a hangover or ruined a cell phone by jumping in a pool.

But students who travel abroad must take additional precautions as the heightened risks include becoming lost, getting pick-pocketed or otherwise taken advantage of.

And of course bumping some poor innocent person off.


I think Americans would be shocked at how easy it is for young people to get blind drunk in Europe. There is no social stigma about drinking, unlike in the US. When I lived in the US I was ID’d every time I bought beer, and I saw gray-haired guys get ID’d. I think most American readers would have seen the same thing.

In Europe, the reverse is true: I have never been asked for ID, and I have seen teenagers buy six-packs (and more) without being asked for ID.  In most European countries, the legal age for drinking is 18, but many bars and clubs in some countries are fairly lax about it.

Of course, in countries like Spain and Italy, most young people are raised to drink responsibly, but for an 18-21 year old student, coming from the US and looking for fun, the bars of a place like Perugia would look like paradise. Beer is cheap, usually stronger than US beer (and it usually tastes better, but that’s another story!) and easy to obtain. 

I can’t speak about Italy, since I have never visited, but I have been around Europe enough to know that the average American would be either appalled or delighted (depending on their age and level of maturity) at how easy it is for young people to get absolutely legless in Europe.

Posted by Janus on 11/12/10 at 11:28 PM | #

By Storm Roberts (Innai)

I agree totally with your comment, Janus.

Young people studying away from home do also get drunk on the freedom they have being away from the constraints of family and their normal boundaries - leading them to make reckless choices with regards to drugs and alcohol sometimes with terrifying consequences.

In the UK we have a “drink to get drunk” culture which we are sadly exporting to countries where, typically, there has been a more mature attitude to alcohol.  The last government sought to try to introduce longer opening hours for licenced premises in order to encourage a “café culture” (such as you can see in many places around mainland Europe).

Sadly this hasn’t worked (as far as I can see) as now many town centres are no go areas from earlier to later because of the number of inebriated people around.  Drunken violence is also a big problem in some areas.  It’s a big question to which I don’t think there is an easy answer.

Posted by Nolongeramember on 11/13/10 at 10:21 AM | #

I remember Amanda Knox stating she was “intoxicated by freedom”.

Quite a statement to utter when looked at in the context of her murdering her housemate just shortly after arriving in Italy - chilling in fact, but what does she actually mean by this?

Binge drinking amongst the young is undoubtedly a social problem of our times in recent years and I think it is culturally driven and will take a while before this culture changes.

There seems to be a certain kudos that exists with regards to how blasted one can get on alcohol - and in the internet age people even post videos of themselves on YouTube like the infamous “one/one and a half” video of a seemingly drunk Amanda Knox.

Posted by Black Dog on 11/14/10 at 08:55 AM | #

Hi Janus and Innai and Black Dog. Seriously interesting comments. Extremely revealing.

My own experience of observing people in economic growth programs is that those with a vision, a sense of purpose, some empowerment, and a support structure are extremely unlikely to put themselves at real risk in any way. I think Meredith pretty well fits here.

Where there is more doubt, more isolation, less success know-how, and low possibilities for upward mobility, people often goof off and self-destruct.

Amanda Knox seems to have been energetic and quite bright but if there was any obvious sense of purpose in her college days in Seattle and Perugia, other than to have a very good time and rather misleadingly impress people around her, it certainly wasn’t obvious from the outside.

She walked from the Berlin Reichstag intern job, one that Meredith for one would have absolutely exulted in and used as a learning experience all the rest of her life. And in Perugia Amanda only enrolled in a glorified language school which almost anyone can walk right into and start taking classes.

Purposelessness is almost certainly likely to grow in Europe and the US and Japan unless they figure out how to jump onto the next level of growth knowhow. At present every single one of those countries is doing precisely the wrong thing - spending themselves bankrupt trying to support old industries and by extension those jobs.

If those countries are going to break out of this vicious cycle they are going to need a lot of people with bold thinking and a real sense of purpose and the right tools.

In a real sense Amanda Knox is an archetype for why the western countries are failing - and Meredith represented the way they can succeed.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/14/10 at 02:22 PM | #

Good points, Pete. Another young woman who was an archetype of success in the modern world, who was unfortunately brutally murdered, was Suzanne Jovin.

A Yale student, she had grown up bilingual in Germany. She was active in Best Buddies, the German club, tutoring in the schools, and the Bach Society. A brilliant scholar, her senior thesis focused on Osama Bin-Laden, well before 9/11 (she died in 1998). She was in all ways a role model and a good friend to those who knew her, as well as her sisters.

On December 4, 1998, she was brutally stabbed to death on the streets of New Haven, a couple miles north of the Yale campus. She was last seen on Yale campus a half-hour earlier, implying she got into a car. A tan or white van has been implicated in the crime. A possible suspect sketch has been circulated.

Unfortunately, it would appear the New Haven/Yale police did not really do the best of jobs in the circumstances. They focused early on one “person-of-interest” (gee, I hate that term, what was wrong with “suspect”?). This “person,” Jovin’s professor, has never been formally charged. In fact, he has pursued lawsuits, and claims his life was ruined by the attention.

A possible DNA sample was, unfortunately, just discovered last year to be that of a technician in the New Haven lab. It was a huge blow to the investigation.

I feel so for this victim, and pray the case is eventually solved. I can’t imagine the pain of her parents and sisters all these years.

Once again, the best and brightest was a victim. Totally unfortunate (I keep using that word in this post, but it’s so apt).

Posted by Earthling on 11/15/10 at 05:25 PM | #

I am not a US student but I can confirm that partying amd binge drinking are indeed spreading among young people and particularly infecting the student culture like the plague.

I live in a big students` home and my neighbours recently threw a party that lasted until seven a.m. the following morning with people shouting, playing loud music , drinking (of course) and some local guys who were not even students arriving from nearby to join in .It all ended up with a couple of boys climbing the roof and throwing down chairs and even objects being tossed from the ninth floor.

We do have students from abroad, however, ERASMUS students, incidentally, who live in privileged circumstances on the first floor . They party a lot as well lol

Posted by aethelred23 on 11/15/10 at 05:38 PM | #

In 1966, a young American girl came to stay at my mother’s home for 2 months in Belgium (my mother had met her in Texas as she was planning a year around Europe).

She was a very nice girl, but was not prepared at all for a freedom far from home.

At first everything went fine but very soon she started sleeping around and smoking pot (no pot at all in our home ...). Many women started calling my mother, very concerned because her “guest” was sleeping with their sons, sending them telegrams from Amsterdam “come and meet me here” etc…

She left quite an impression!

Back in Texas, she married her high school sweet heart and never got in touch with us anymore: she did not want anybody to know she was not ... Mom’s sweet little angel.

Parents have to prepare their kids to freedom. “Swear you will not do this or that” does not work. They swear, but they do not know why they should not.

Posted by Patou on 11/15/10 at 09:45 PM | #

Hi Earthling. As a sidenote, and as a regular surfer of wikipedia, and a repository of pretty useless facts, I understand that the phrase “person of interest” became the standard term used by media people instead of “suspect” in the USA after the Atlanta bombing in 1996.

A man named Richard Jewell was hounded by the media after his name was released by the FBI as a “suspect”, and was later proved to be completely innocent of any involvement.

Posted by Janus on 11/16/10 at 02:18 AM | #
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