Special Issue: International students view of alcohol

Categories:  News    Dry Campus, Wet Town
Wednesday, December 9th, 2015 at 7:53 PM
Special Issue: International students view of alcohol by William Stevens
Photo | Paige Koenig

In Japan, the legal drinking age is 20 years old. In countries like Singapore and the Bahamas, it’s 18. And in Italy, it falls all the way down to 16. But 12 countries, including the United States, remain at the highest established legal drinking age in the world: 21.

So what happens when international students, previously residing in a legal drinking culture, step onto Edinboro’s campus and American soil? And more importantly, what culture and attitudes do these students bring with them, and what are their reactions to the American restrictions?

International student Peter Yu spoke about how alcohol is viewed in Singapore, a small island off the coast of Malaysia. According to Yu, the drinking age was 18, although he “wasn’t the party-going type.”

“We don’t have a law saying you (people who are underage) can’t come into the bars,” Yu said. “Parents will have alcohol in the house and they can drink based on the parent’s approval. There wasn’t such a huge hype for alcohol and I think the way that Americans are doing it is kind of childish.”

“Everyone starts drinking from the time they graduate high school and go to college,” international student from Japan, Naoya Nagata said. “But nobody cares about that. If you go to a restaurant or the bar nobody checks IDs like here. It’s not as strict as it is in the US.”

“In Italy, I don’t drink with my friends to get drunk,” international graduate assistant Raffaele Fusulan said. “We just go out casually at the bars and chill. You sit there and order wine and they bring you chips.”

“But here in America, it’s more about getting drunk. I only go to the bars here to grab a drink, not to get drunk.”

International student Marla Smith, from the Bahamas, explained that in her culture, “it’s [just] an age.” Smith also mentioned that underage drinking is not as big of a deal as it is here in the United States.

“It doesn’t really matter.” Smith said. “If you drink, you drink. It’s not really as bad as it would be over here [in the U.S.].”

The More You Want It

According to a study performed in 2011, titled “Harmful Alcohol Use on Campus,” young people at universities lived up to the reputation described by Fusulan, being more likely to consume alcohol at harmful levels than their same-age peers who were not on a college campus. The study also mentioned harmful alcohol use affects many aspects of campus life.

Yu mentioned these possible campus life issues, stating, “You’re sneaking out, going to different places to drink and getting yourself in trouble.”

“And I just don’t think that’s a smart move. The law is there for a reason, but I don’t think it’s a prevalent law in Asian countries.”

Fusulan, meanwhile, related it to other important milestones in a student’s younger years. “They [Americans] drive at 16 and are pushed to drink before 21 and it’s a formula that I believe doesn’t fit well together.”

“They can’t raise the driving age higher because people need their cars here, but if they decrease the drinking age maybe people wouldn’t [drink with the intention of getting drunk].”

“The less you’re able to do something, the more you want it,” Yu said. “So I think the access to alcohol has been suppressed for more American teenagers so the hype builds up. It’s like an achievement for most people.”

Smith believed people who are underage “tend to go overboard” when they drink because they “can’t manage how much they consume.”

“It’s very restricted and takes away the [freedom],” said Fusulan. “In Las Vegas there is a law that says you can walk around with alcohol and you can be publicly intoxicated. But that’s the only part of America that’s allowed to do [that].”

“You always have to be aware of what you do; that’s… the biggest difference [between America and Italy].”

Throw Away All The Hype

Now what if the drinking age in America was lowered? Would the view of these students change in any way?

Yu stated that it wouldn’t affect the way he views alcohol. However, he believes it would change the way Americans view alcohol.

“If you reduce the age then I think there wouldn’t be so much hype for it,” he said. “So as it becomes more common the desire for the product would decrease.”

“Once people are able to achieve something, then they throw away all the hype. You don’t see 50 year olds being excited about drinking and going to parties.”

“There would be positive and negative consequences, of course.” Fusulan said. “I’m no expert so I cannot predict what would happen if you lower it to 18, but [in] my personal opinion it would be the better choice.”

The United States, is, of course, not the only country suffering from alcohol related issues.

A study published in 2008 stated that 55,000 young people in Europe died from causes related to alcohol use in the year 1999. The article went on to state that in the United Kingdom, the alcohol-related mortality rate is increasing compared to many other European countries.

Whether a decreased drinking age is the solution is still a hot button issue, but you can certainly say one thing about Edinboro’s campus. It’s a true mix of viewpoints regarding the substance.

William Stevens is a Senior Staff Writer for The Spectator.

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