Students only study abroad so they can have an easy class schedule and get drunk every night, duh. Is this statement offensive to you? At GoAbroad, we die a little every time we hear it. It is a reality, however, that some students treat studying abroad like an extended party-soaked spring break instead of an immersive learning experience. Please don’t be one of those students.
We aren’t here to lecture and tell you that drinking is bad; it isn’t. Drinking in other countries (responsibly) doesn’t make you a horrible person, it just makes you a person. We merely want to give you a reminder that there’s more to studying abroad than drinking. In fact, some of the best moments abroad come from those nights you took it easy or did something other than get lost in the bottle.
Drinking while studying abroad can be a mature foray into new cultural insights, or it can be a slopfest.
Here are eight benefits of being sober while studying abroad:
1. You’ll be prepared to explore the next day.
Drinking is fun, but uh, hangovers are not. You can leave the Gatorade and aspirin at home. Don’t miss out on exploring your host country because you drank too much the night before. Not only will the alcohol make you feel terrible, but so will the fact that you missed out on zip-lining through a rainforest during your study abroad program in Costa Rica.
If you want to try some local alcohol, like Pimm’s or Ouzo or mezcal, go for it. In some countries, having a pint of beer or glass of wine is a cultural norm. Just don’t get obliterated every night. There is a difference between social drinking and binge drinking, even though the two can sometimes seem interchangeable.
2. You can seek a larger variety of experiences.
Even nightly clubbing at Babyface while studying abroad in Beijing becomes lame if you do it every night. You are in a different country. Who knows if you’ll ever get the chance to travel there again? Embrace it! Treat every night like it’s your last night in that country. One night it actually will be, and you don’t want every memory to take place in a bar. Explore restaurants, go to a concert, find a nearby fair or festival, see a movie in another country. Look at your decision to drink less as an invitation to see and do MORE!
3. You will get out of your comfort zone more often.
If you’re shy or in an uncomfortable situation, drinking may seem like a viable option to help you loosen up. However, it’s one of the dangers of drinking — if you always use alcohol in these types of situations, you’ll never learn how to deal with the discomfort and become a less awkward person. By taking a break from the booze, you’ll be forced out of your comfort zone and wind up gaining more confidence and self assurance, maybe even a mastery of small talk. You’ll never know if you don’t try!
4. You won’t be a walking stereotype.
If you’re from a country that is stereotyped as loud, obnoxious, heavy drinkers, getting wasted every night won’t help improve the image of your nation on an international scale. It also won’t improve the image of international students as a whole. You won’t win over the locals, as many cultures look down on people who get blatantly drunk in public. Even countries that are known for alcohol consumption, such as Germany, have culturally accepting drinking etiquette and find public drunkenness distasteful. Aside from this, embarrassing and offensive statements are more likely to escape from your mouth if you’re tanked. Lock it up!
5. You will be safer.
It’s easy to make bad decisions when you’re drunk (this is how 24-hour fast food restaurants stay in business). When you’re abroad, decisions can lead to much worse outcomes than eating ten tacos. The dangers of drinking are serious. You could be taken advantage of, robbed, or led into even worse situations by people who know you’re from a different country. When you do drink, always keep on eye on your beverage and stay with at least one person you know. In general, it’s safer to take a break from the obliterated-drinking scene.
6. You’ll save money for other activities.
If you’re spending all of your money on fermented beverages, you will have less money to spend on other things, right? You’d be surprised at how much it all adds up at the end of every week. You could use that money instead to try more local foods, ride the train to other countries, or buy gifts for friends and family at home (or some hot-ticket mementos for yourself!). Maybe that money can go toward an impromptu adventure activity, like skydiving or bungee jumping, in another country!
7. You’ll get more out of your studies.
One of the main reasons for studying abroad is to...well, study. If you’re skipping classes to drink or because you’re hungover, you’re missing out on a lot of valuable cultural learning opportunities. Studying abroad is by no means an entirely cheap endeavor (although it can be cheaper), so make the most of your money by participating in your classes and enriching your brain for your career back home.
8. You will remember being abroad.
This is one of the many TOP benefits of being sober because what’s the point of studying abroad if half of your memories are hazy? You can drink anywhere, but you can only experience the culture and history of your host country in that country. Again, we aren’t saying that alcohol is the root of all evil. Please go out, get a drink, and have some fun! Just keep in mind that drinking is only a drop in an ocean of studying abroad experiences. If that last sentence was too cliche to process, just remember that there’s more to the world than alcohol.
You’ll experience many, many more benefits of study abroad by being sober. Whether you’re scuba diving in Australia or eco touring in Brazil during your free time, you’ll need to be in tip-top shape to fully immerse yourself in cultural experiences. You’ll cherish the photos of you getting out of your comfort zone much more than the photos of a confusing look on your face from drinking. While a sip here and there may be no big deal, making the mistake of binge drinking and missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience of studying abroad is. Stay thirsty for meaningful experiences, friends!
What do you think? Are study abroad students wrongfully stereotyped? How much of the study abroad experience includes alcohol?