10 Tips for Drinking Responsibly (but still having fun) as an International Student at a US College

For many international students, studying abroad is the first time they will experience life outside of their home country unsupervised. It's a time for growth and self discovery. One aspect of American college life that is prevalent in movies, TV, and music is partying and drinking alcohol — from the iconic “red solo cup” to the beer pong tournaments. It may be difficult to completely avoid this part of the American college experience, so we at ISI thought we'd share 10 tips on drinking responsibly as an international student.

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Count your drinks

This can be a useful way to make sure that you’re not overdoing it, and to keep your wits about you. It is also important to know the amount of alcohol in each drink.

Pay attention to mixed drinks, as they are usually composed of liquor and a mixer. The mixer can mask the flavor of alcohol and you may end up consuming far more alcohol than intended. If you don’t know what is in a mixed drink, ask before drinking it!
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Drink water before, during, and after drinking alcohol

Staying hydrated is an important thing to do normally. Alternating water and alcoholic drinks can allow your body to process the alcohol more efficiently and also reduce the chance of a severe hangover in the morning. Something called “Liquid IV” is also growing in popularity, which is a powder that can be added to your water to increase the electrolytes, thus aiding in hydration.
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Eat before or while drinking

Be sure to eat before and/or while drinking, as this will help absorb some of the alcohol that you consume. Alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream through your stomach and through your intestines. Having food in your stomach will stop you from absorbing alcohol really fast. Eating salty food is not recommended, as this will make you thirstier and you may end up consuming more alcohol than originally intended. Some foods that are recommended to eat while drinking are popcorn, pretzels, wheat crackers, bananas, and bread.
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Be careful and don’t overdo drinking games

While drinking games may be fun, it puts pressure on you to consume alcohol very quickly and you may feel peer pressure to ‘not let your team down’. You can still be a team player without partaking in the drinking part (ask for water or soda in your cup instead of alcohol), or you can dance and participate in other activities without alcohol.
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Do not mix alcohol and energy drinks together

Energy drinks contain a large amount of caffeine which is a stimulant. Alcohol is naturally a depressant, and consuming the two together may lead to an individual being very enthusiastic about drinking for much longer than they normally would. Popular energy drinks in the US that you want to avoid while drinking include Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar. If you are offered drinks that include any of these (such as “Vodka Red Bull”), avoid them.
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Listen to your body

If at any point while drinking alcohol, you start to feel sick or disoriented, stop drinking and switch to water. Feeling sick or even just “off” is your body reacting to the alcohol, and continuing to drink can have unpleasant effects such as vomiting, dizziness, memory loss, or other more serious physical reactions.. In the morning, you may suffer from a hangover which would make it hard to function.
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Do not drive under the influence

Drunk driving is a very serious illegal offense in the US A taxi service or ride sharing service is much cheaper and wiser than facing legal fees and punishments (which can include visa revocation) for a DUI, in addition to potentially harming yourself or someone else. Some cities and universities have excellent public transportation that can also be used. If you go out with a group of friends, decide on a designated driver beforehand or have an alternative plan for getting home safely.
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If you do not feel comfortable drinking, don’t drink

Perhaps you had a long day at school, have an exam, something important to do the next day, or you just choose not to drink. Whatever the reason, or for no reason at all, you can say no to drinking and peer pressure. Remember, “I don’t want to” is a perfectly valid reason for having a quiet evening in or doing something that doesn’t involve alcohol. It may be hard or feel awkward to say no, but once you start doing it, you’ll feel comfortable and avoid having a bad time. Many colleges will have late night alcohol-free events, or you can do some research to find other fun things to do on, off, and around your campus.
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Be aware of your surroundings

As you drink more, you may begin to become disoriented. Be sure to note where you are, where you may be going, and who you are with. It is also a good idea to keep your drink with you at all times, so that no one can slip something harmful into it. If you leave your drink by accident, get a new one.
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Stick to one type of drink

By sticking to one kind of drink, you may keep track of your drinks and alcohol intake more easily. If you start out with a beer, you may consume this fairly quickly, and by switching over to a stronger beverage such as a mixed drink or wine, you may consume the stronger alcohol more quickly than intended. If you start out the night drinking beer, it is a good idea to stick to it. Mixing different types of alcohol can also make you more sick and more likely to be hungover the next day.