Involvement with or dependency upon drugs or excessive or illegal use of alcohol is viewed by Middlebury as a health concern, as well as a disciplinary matter.
Any time a Schools Abroad official has reasonable concerns that your health is being compromised by alcohol or other drug use (even in cases where no concrete evidence or direct witness is involved), a drug and/or alcohol consultation or assessment may be required.
In addition, the Schools Abroad official may notify your family and/or home institution regarding concerns about drug or alcohol use. Many of the safety incidents that our students have experienced have occurred when the students were intoxicated.
Tips for Safety Around Alcohol and Drugs
Please bear in mind the following so that you do not compromise yourself. We do not condone underage drinking or drinking to excess in any context, but in those instances when alcohol is involved in students’ plans, it is imperative that you make a plan to ensure your safety above all else.
Keep an eye on your friends.
If you are going out in a group, plan to arrive together and leave together. If you decide to leave early, let your friends know. If you’re at a party, check in with them during the night to see how they’re doing. If something doesn’t look right, step in. Don’t be afraid to let a friend know if something is making you uncomfortable or if you are worried about their safety.
Have a backup plan.
Sometimes plans change quickly. You might realize it’s not safe for you to go home alone, or the group you arrived with might decide to go somewhere you don’t feel comfortable. Keep the number for a reliable taxi company saved in your phone and cash on hand in case you decide to leave.
Designate a sober member of the group.
While in the U.S., emphasis is often placed on having a designated driver; people with access to public transportation tend to dismiss the importance of having at least one member of the group sober for the duration of the evening, and charged with seeing everyone home safely.
Know what you’re drinking.
Don’t recognize an ingredient? Use your phone to look it up. Consider avoiding large-batch drinks like punches that may have a deceptively high alcohol content. There is no way to know exactly what was used to create these drinks.
Trust your instincts.
If you feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or worried for any reason, don’t ignore these feelings. Go with your gut. Get somewhere safe and find someone you trust or call law enforcement.
Don’t leave a drink unattended.
That includes when you use the bathroom, go dancing, or leave to make a phone call. Either take the drink with you or throw it out. Avoid using the same cup to refill your drink.
Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know or trust.
This can be challenging in some settings, like a party or a date. If you choose to accept a drink from someone you’ve just met, try to go with the person to the bar to order it, watch it being poured, and carry it yourself.
Check in with yourself.
You might have heard the expression “know your limits.” Whether you drink regularly or not, check in with yourself periodically to register how you feel. Do you feel more intoxicated than you should? Some drugs are odorless, colorless and/or tasteless, and can be added to your drink without you noticing. If you feel uncomfortable, tell a friend and have them take you to a safe place. If you suspect you or a friend has been drugged, be upfront with healthcare professionals so they can administer the right tests.
Ask yourself, “Would I do this if I were sober?”
Alcohol can have an effect on your overall judgment. You wouldn’t drive, make medical decisions, or ride a bike while intoxicated. Many professionals, such as doctors, teachers, and pilots, cannot consume any alcohol while doing their jobs. Given this context, is what you’re about to do a good idea? Will you be comfortable with your decision the next day? Many countries have laws regarding alcohol and other drug use that are more severe than laws in the US. In some countries, those caught with illegal drugs can be subject to death.
Be aware of where and with whom you are drinking.
Remember that your host country has different social norms than those with which you are familiar in the U.S.
Strategies and Warning Signs
Watch This Video
For a student perspective on drinking while abroad, we recommend watching this video.
Students seeking treatment or counseling for alcohol or drug issues, can consult the following resources: