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Counselor's Corner

This week’s topic: Surviving Spring Break


Published (Volume 76, No. 25)


A professor at the University of North Texas, Bhaarath Josiam, actually did a research study of college student behaviors during spring break.

He surveyed students from more than 20 colleges and he went to Panama City Beach, Fla., to do additional research (it was a tough job, but someone had to do it!). Seriously, he discovered some disturbing facts about spring break behaviors. 

Of the students who spent their break at the beach, 91 percent of the men and 78 percent of the women engaged in binge drinking every day during the break. 

For puposes of this study, a binge was described as consumption of at least five alcoholic drinks at a sitting.
Many of the students felt sick throughout the break because of their drinking.  They also tended to have more “sexual interactions” during this week than they normally would.

Because the decision to have sex was influenced by alcohol and the perception that they were not responsible for the consequences during vacation, students were at high risk for sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, and sexual assault. 

Dr. Josiam found that African Americans “tended to be more conservative and less inclined to binge drink during a spring break-like event.

In his initial studies, he found relatively few African American students taking part in the traditional spring break venues like Panama City Beach”  (UNT InHouse Publication, 3/13/03).
GAMMA (Greeks Advocating the Mature Management of Alcohol) is a national organization devoted to responsible behavior.

They focus on the need for safety during spring break, including staying with a group of friends and using designated drivers.

Several colleges and organizations are concerned about students who travel abroad during spring break and who are not prepared for the dangers they may encounter.

While everyone needs a break and a vacation of some sort, think hard about whether you want to spend your break so drunk you won’t even remember what you did.

Every year, students come back from alcohol-focused spring break trips feeling exhausted, sick and sometimes having been victimized. Often they regret their own actions. 

What can you do to have fun without the hassle?

Consider avoiding the carnival-like atmosphere of beach towns filled with drunken college students. A few miles down the road, there might be a place where you can actually relax with your friends, enjoy the ocean and do some things that will refresh you. It’s probably too late this year, but next year you might consider an “alternative spring break,” often sponsored by religious or service organizations, that combines travel with the chance to do something worthwhile such as build houses for poor people. 

Travel is a wonderful experience, but if you just want to get dead drunk every day, you might as well stay home. If you travel, make plans to actually see the area and do some things that you will enjoy and remember.

If you are home with your family for Spring Break, remember that your parents don’t mean to treat you like a 10-year-old. 

Make an effort to connect with family members as an adult - offer to take your mother out to lunch, see if you can help your dad with a project, spend some time taking your younger siblings to do something you’ll both enjoy.

If your family is impossible, plan to stay busy. If all else fails, go to the local library and read,  catch up on your studying or go to a park and walk the dog.  Write in your journal, learn a new skill, work in your grandmother’s garden or go to a free concert or sporting event. Reconnect with friends, enjoy the spring weather, and use the time to recharge yourself.

It may seem easier and more fun to cast caution to the winds during spring break and do whatever you feel like. 

Unfortunately, there is no “break” from the consequences of our actions. You can have a wonderful time without doing things that are self-destructive and dangerous.  Try a new adventure, but treat yourself and others with respect.

For more information on staying safe during Spring Break, visit the Counseling Center, located at 213 University Center.