Seminar Paper, 2005, 26 Pages
As an international student from Germany it was unavoidable that I would have to face some common stereotypes about Germans. “Is it true that every German wears lederhosen?” and “Do all Germans eat sauerkraut and drink beer all day?” were two of the many questions I was asked shortly after moving to D. C. and meeting my fellow students. As I was thinking of a reasonable answer to these inquiries, I soon realized that I do not conform to the stereotypes many people have about Germans. I have never worn lederhosen before, nor do I like to drink beer. Nevertheless, I was born in Germany and am, therefore, German. This contradiction between social expectations and reality made me think about a fascinating inconsistency about college students in the States: college drinking.
As young adults leave their families, friends, and familiar surroundings in order to move away to college, they face the new experience of living with complete strangers and are challenged to take on new responsibilities (e.g. they must study independently and make autonomous financial decisions affecting their own personal credit). The life lessons learned during college are probably some of the most formative and important of one’s existence. Tapping into one’s academic brilliance through education is crucial for further success in one’s private and professional life; however, many college students have a habit of engaging in binge drinking. The term binge drinking was defined for men as having five or more drinks in a row at least once in the prior two weeks, and for women as having four or more in a row (Wechsler, XIII). Why do students participate in behavior that is proven to kill brain cells? Excessive alcohol consumption over a long period of time can irrevocably damage intellectual capacities which will affect future successes in academia and in life. In addition, both the government and universities have clear laws and policies regarding alcohol with regards to students under the age of twenty-one. Considering that most students enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States are underage, the fact that binge-drinking is such an issue is disconcerting to say the least. Non-compliance with laws and regulations concerning alcohol consumption can result in harsh punishments including expulsion from school and even incarceration. Nevertheless, students continually engage in the risky behavior of “binging.” Is excessive alcohol consumption normative among university students?
In order to examine the contradiction between the clear policies and national laws regarding under-age alcohol consumption and the expectation to drink among college students, I decided to interview three college freshmen at The George Washington University with whom I have become acquainted since my arrival in Washington, D.C. While Sarah and Tyler are Caucasian and come from American middle to upper class families, Kolo is an African-American who comes from a solid middle class background
The interview subjects all live in my residence hall, HOVA, and I have come to know them quite well over the past two months. I have learned a great deal about their attitudes towards drinking—especially on the weekends—and believe that their experiences and attitudes will be interesting to my readers. Due to the controversial nature of this study, pseudonyms have been given to each subject to protect both their privacy and the validity of the project.
Many scholarly researches try to examine what motivates students to turn to excessive alcohol consumption during the university years as well as what participation in such risky behavior can indicate about their personality. Also, the studies make an attempt to point out why most university policies are not effective and what reforms would be successful in eliminating underage drinking. Henry Wechsler and Bernice Wuethrich discuss the causes and often damaging results of binge drinking on college campuses. Their statements are based on the results of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study (CAS), an ongoing survey of more than fifty thousand students at 140 four-year colleges located in forty states. This source will help me to define aspects that might lead students to binge drinking.
The article published in the journal of psychological reports by Ruth C. Engs and David J. Hanson introduces the reactance theory to my research. It will help me to explain why the exceptionally high drinking age in the United States might be contra productive and find out why it even increases the appeal of alcohol to students.
Another source I will rely on in my research is published by the National On-Campus Report. It is a revealing article that looks at student’s attitudes towards alcohol from another point of view. It discusses the social norms theory on college campuses and admits students more “protective behaviors” while drinking than commonly understood.
Jean Kilbourn wrote a fascinating book about how the media can influence that way we think and feel. The chapter about alcohol advertising will be especially relevant to my research as it explains possible reasons why students turn to alcohol.
Lastly, I will utilize the ideas introduced in an article published by Carol Counihan, an anthropologist who studies the food habits of college students. In her article she introduced the idea of food rules as “an important means through which humans beings construct reality.” I will use this idea and apply it to my research in terms of alcohol consumption.
More than Just an Attitude towards Drinking
College drinking is a very controversial issue. While some students cannot imagine college without drinking, many others have very strong beliefs about why they are not supposed to drink. The research subjects whom I interviewed are first year students at George Washington University, which is a private institution. The campus is located in the heart of the American capital, approximately four blocks away from the White House. The campus, therefore, stands under the direct influence of this political, metropolitan area, benefiting from the high security level coming from the White House. The crime rate on campus, compared to other parts of D.C. and other American cities, is relatively low. Security plays an important role in campus life. The student body consists of about 9,300 full time and 1,200 part time undergraduates. The tuition fee of $30,000 annually, is one of the most expensive in the country. About 61% of the students are paying full tuition and about 65% of the student body is made up of upper-class white Caucasians from the east coast (Gordon, 1-3).
“After a weekend here, I haven’t gotten drunk yet. What’s wrong with this place?” (Sarah, 18)
I met Sarah shortly after I moved into my dorm. After having observed her drinking habits over several weekends, I have come to consider her beliefs about drinking typical for most college students.
Sarah is eighteen years old, comes from Arizona, and is an International Affairs major. She lives on the same floor as I do, and I have known her since the beginning of the semester. When I asked her why she chose GW, she replied, “For the International Affairs Program and for the drinking.” Although there was probably a sarcastic component in that statement, I think it clearly represents the attitude a majority of students have regarding alcohol consumption at college. As she explained to me, like other US states, Arizona has a minimum drinking age of twenty-one. If you are found to have excessive alcohol in your blood while driving, you will be considered to be “driving under the influence,” or DUI, and will be arrested: “You can have one beer, and if it shows up on the Breathalyzer, they will arrest you. That’s good stuff.”
After hearing about Sarah’s personal background, I was curious to find out about her earliest memories vis-à-vis alcohol. The only childhood memory she had of alcohol was a liquor cabinet in the family home, which she says was never opened. She remembers teasing her dad because he never really drank, and her mother is Mormon, and is therefore forbidden from drinking. Alcohol did not seem to be a big deal for her until the night of her fifteenth birthday. Her friends took her to a park late in the night and began drinking. “It was kind of retarded,” Sarah recalls now. When I asked Sarah at what other places she remembered being confronted with alcohol, she indicated the DARE program. DARE is an acronym for “Drug Abuse Resistance Education.” DARE is a drug education and deterrent program aimed at fifth graders. Alcohol abuse is one of many topics covered in the DARE curriculum. “They have a police officer come and tell stories how alcohol is bad and drugs are bad. And they make you do stupid activities.” Obviously, DARE did not have a great impact on Sarah.
Since coming to GW, she reports that she drinks once a week, usually during weekends, but that before arriving here, she only had alcohol once every five or six months. The fact that she dislikes the taste of many of the drinks and being sick the next morning does not prevent her from drinking. Sarah says that she can talk to people more easily when she has had alcohol; she considers herself “a lot more social” after having had a few drinks. Sarah would not consider herself shy, but she usually does not feel comfortable talking to strangers. Alcohol takes this inhibition away from her. “It brings people together,” she stated. In her opinion, alcohol does not serve a true purpose, rather, it is something done for fun. She insists that she is not trying to imitate the “cool kids.” Alcohol consumption among her peers back home was moderate. Her friends drank, but not on a regular basis (mainly because it was so complicated to find a place to drink). Working out the logistics of planning a drinking party made the idea not only impractical, but also difficult. Sarah does say, however, that when someone did manage to host a drinking party, it was a big event because there was “never anything to do in Arizona.”
Seminar Paper, 29 Pages
Presentation (Elaboration), 13 Pages
Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 26 Pages
Seminar Paper, 29 Pages
Presentation (Elaboration), 13 Pages
Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 26 Pages
GRIN Publishing, located in Munich, Germany, has specialized since its foundation in 1998 in the publication of academic ebooks and books. The publishing website GRIN.com offer students, graduates and university professors the ideal platform for the presentation of scientific papers, such as research projects, theses, dissertations, and academic essays to a wide audience.
Free Publication of your term paper, essay, interpretation, bachelor's thesis, master's thesis, dissertation or textbook - upload now!