Semester Abroad Leads to More Brewskis and Vino for College Students

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Drinking in college increases when students study abroad. Credit: Getty Images

In the midst of gaining cross-cultural skills, learning a foreign language and garnering a global understanding, college students studying abroad are busy raising their beer steins and vino glasses -- at more than double the rate of their peers back home, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Hey, someone had to help with the research, and 177 students at the University of Washington volunteered to get drunk for the sake of science. The students shared their drinking habits before their international adventures, during their treks and back home (an average of three to five years), according to the newspaper. The findings were published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

The researchers at the University Of Washington Department Of Psychology found, overall, that student drinking more than doubled while abroad, but returned to pre-travel levels when the students came back home. However, the heaviest drinkers drank more when they got back.

Location also was a contributing factor, with international collegiate adventurers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand leading the drinking pack, according to the Times. Additionally, students in Latin America drank significantly more when they returned, compared to pre-trip levels.

Younger students -- those under 21 -- drank less than their older peers before traveling, but once in Europe, they started hitting the brewskis about 170 percent more than their pre-travel days, the Times reports. These younger college students also drank more when they returned, compared with before their trip abroad, where the legal drinking age is below 21.

"The study abroad experience presents both unique opportunities and unique risks for students," study co-author Mary Larimer, director of the Center for the Study of Health & Risk Behaviors, says in a news release. "Working with these students pre-departure is a terrific opportunity to help reduce their risks for drinking consequences while abroad, and may also help prevent difficulties when they return home."

UW graduate student and researcher Eric Pedersen tells the Huffington Post he would expect to get similar results at other universities.

"I don't think this is just a UW problem," says the psychology student, who notes, however, that his study sample included more women than the national average for studying abroad and the students he looked at were more diverse ethnically than the national average.

He tells the Huffington Post his research did not pinpoint why students drink more while they study abroad, but the results don't necessarily indicate binge drinking. Pedersen says a drink or so each night with dinner could add up to the 10 drinks a week European visitors reported on average.

"In general, drinking is an issue on college campuses, " Pedersen tells the website. "When you take that and put it in a foreign country, there's potential for more consequences.

He notes, however, that most students who study overseas, including those who drink, do not get in trouble while they're abroad.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.