Students discuss whether Asbury’s alcohol policies harm students’ cross-cultural experiences

By Kelsey Campbell
Contributing Writer

A cross-cultural experience is a requirement to graduate, but due to a trend of college students drinking while they’re abroad, could the requirement actually cause some students to stumble?

According to a 2010 study done by the University of Washington, college students drink twice as much while studying abroad as they do stateside. Places like Europe, Australia and New Zealand host more heavy drinking lifestyles. The study proved that most students followed suit with the drinking habits of the country they were in. 

On the cross-cultural trips hosted by Asbury, students must sign forms agreeing to keep Asbury’s standards. Professors attending the trips must sign a similar form saying they will supervise the students they take with them. According to Dr. Kathryn Hendershot, director of cross-cultural experience, a case of a student breaking a rule while on a trip has never been reported. 

Students studying abroad for an entire semester may not be supervised by one of Asbury’s faculty, but they are still expected to represent Asbury while overseas. Dr. Bonnie Banker, dean of students, said, “To the best of our ability, we attempt to create cross-cultural opportunities that are in wholesome locations, guided by faculty, staff, and Asbury University partners who are committed to Christ and His call on our lives.”

Banker added, “We trust Asbury students have matured enough to honor the commitments they have made to Asbury and the cause of Christ. We have to trust that as they go to these locations to represent Christ, Asbury University, the U.S., etc., that they will follow through with the commitments they have made. I believe in our students’ integrity.” 

Megan Snyder, a May 2013 graduate, went abroad to France during her time at Asbury. Snyder said, “Mostly it’s a simple cultural difference. Drinking ages overseas are always under the States’ drinking age, so the only accountability you have is Asbury’s standards or the program’s standards that you are with.” 

“I turned 21 when I was in France, and I did go out to a cafe to get a drink and celebrate,” Snyder said. Nonetheless, she still sees value in a cross-cultural experience requirement, despite the temptations students might experience. “I don’t believe that alone should be a reason for the requirement to be eliminated,” she said.

Another 2013 graduate, Taylor Florian, went to the London Olympics with the media communication program. As an audio assistant, Florian worked on a crew with Brits, New Zealanders, Australians and Italians. He said that most nights he would go out to dinner with his team. 

“The other audio assistants would always cordially offer to buy me a drink,” Florian said. “They weren’t trying to pressure me, but I could tell they really did want to share the experience of having a drink with me because of how culturally significant it was to them. I always felt like they were respectful and they even bought me a non-alcoholic beverage once.” 

Florian added that he does not have a problem with asking students to refrain from drinking alcohol during semesters they spend on campus. He added, however, “The primary drawback of Asbury’s current drinking policy is that it deprives students of significant, responsible moments and experiences, particularly abroad. I was not the first of my friends to have felt their overseas experience was negatively affected by not experiencing a relevant part of the cultures they were supposed to be ‘immersing’ themselves in.”