8 tips to party safely when you’re studying abroad

15 Mar

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up on March 17, it’s important to keep in mind that having fun is not necessarily the same thing as being stupid. Our simple tips will help you reach home safely, and not end up in a hospital or police station. Sting’s words float musically through my mind:

If “manners maketh man”, as someone said,
He’s our hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say

The story goes that Sting wrote this song after an English friend who lived in New York jokingly said that after becoming a US citizen he could not be deported for committing a crime.

If you go abroad to study, not doing something that will get you deported is essential to completing your studies. When I think about studying abroad and my mind gets clouded with apprehensions about the language, food, and cultural differences, I comfort myself by thinking how great the party scene must be, and that drinks probably taste more or less the same everywhere.

Partying is a great stress-buster when you’re drowning in term paper deadlines, strange food, and the inevitable culture shock. It’s also a great way to meet new people. So here are some ways to ensure your partying remains just that – a stress-buster – and doesn’t become a source of stress.

1. Carry proof of your ID and age. This could be your passport, local driver’s licence, or some other document – find out what your local bars and clubs accept. Friday and Saturday nights are busy time for bouncers, with people of all ages and nationalities trying to get in. If you don’t look of legal drinking age, no bar will take a chance on you, and you may find yourself bouncing all the way back to your room. Of course, underage drinking is a crime – don’t do it!

2. Tell a friend about your plans. Back home, your mom may text you every hour, asking if you’ve eaten, where you are, and who you’re with, and may have food in the fridge for when you get home. But when you’re on your own in a new country, you’re going to do a good deal of that for yourself. Just for safety’s sake, inform someone of your whereabouts.

3. Don’t accept drinks from someone you don’t know. Never let someone bring you a drink if you don’t know them well enough. Don’t leave your drink unguarded, either.  Some people don’t understand that the twist in “Bacardi with a twist” is a lemon slice, and not a roofie.

4. Carry a charging cable. That phone may die in the middle of all those selfies. Let’s hope you never need to call an emergency number, but you’re going to need to call a cab (especially if the alternative is to get a ride from someone you don’t know well).  Bonus tip: A charging cable stretched taut makes a great limbo bar.

5. Friends don’t let friends drink and drive. Many towns run late-night buses on weekends so that students can avoid driving or spending absurd amounts of money on cabs. Many people who go out in groups choose to car-pool, and take turns to be the designated driver for the evening. Driving drunk is not only uncool, it’s also a crime. Don’t let your next writing assignment be “The Prison Diaries” or “Dumb Ways to Die”.

6. Use protection. Yes, we’re talking about the “after party”. Make sure whatever happens, happens with your consent as well as your partner’s. Sexual assault is a serious crime, and neither the university nor the police nor the jury will buy the “cultural misunderstanding” defence. If you have any doubts about what constitutes consent, or what is illegal in your town, it’s your responsibility to learn beforehand. There are bound to be places on or off campus where someone can answer any questions you have – student health centre, women’s resource centre, student counsellors. Seek information and you will find it.

7. Carry enough cash. That stuff is a lifesaver if your local cabs don’t accept credit cards, or when you have a pizza craving at 2 a.m.

8. On your way home, text a friend your whereabouts. Obviously, the main purpose of this is to make your friends envious (“Just left Club Ultra-Uber-Cool”, or “Cumberbatch look-alike at the bus stop just smiled at me”), but another effect is that someone knows where you are.

So arm yourself with your best smile, some conversation that starts with “This track is my jam”, and remember to stay safe and have fun!


PS – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


By: Gayatri Mendiratta

One Response to “8 tips to party safely when you’re studying abroad”

  1. Ruth Kinloch September 27, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

    Gayatri, thanks for such great tips on safe study abroad partying! A person should always make sure that certain things are under control especially in foreign countries to avoid some unpleasant consequences that might result in serious troubles. But let’s not talk about bad things too much. Partying is always fun and of course, it brings new people and new views on different stuff. And precaution won’t hurt 🙂

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