American Culture 101: The College Party Scene

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We’ve all seen the movies, college seems like a non-stop party. Everyone drinks and it’s easy to “hook up” with a hot stranger. Not to “rain on the college parade”, but our intern Rachel provides some insight on the college party scene.

College can be a great place to have fun and to get to know who you are. For many Americans, college is the first taste of independence—being on your own away from family and getting to make decisions about your own life. What classes you get to take, what parties to go to, how late you get to stay up—the possibilities are endless! Many students use this new-found freedom to party on campus. Here are some things you need to know:


In America the drinking age is 21, but many college students indulge in drinking even though they are underage. Here are some safety tips:

–       Only have drinks that you poured yourself. This is especially important for female students. There are some people who try to drug drinks to force someone to have sex with them. As a precaution make or pour your own drinks at parties, and don’t accept them from strangers.

–       Go to parties with a group and try to have someone you can trust. Know how you are getting to the party and how you are getting home. Is someone driving and if so will they stay sober? It’s a good idea to be prepared. For ex. if your designated driver turns out to have had too much alcohol, it helps to have the number of a taxi service in your cell phone and some cash.

–       For those of you traveling to colder climes, remember to dress warmly if you are walking to a party. There have been tragic instances of drunk students who died because they were too drunk to find their way home and froze to death during the night. Don’t be one of those people—be comfortable with where you are, go to the party with friends, and bring a coat!

–       Do not drink and drive. Not only is this a serious criminal offense in the US, this endangers you, the pedestrians on the road, and any one in the car.

–       You most likely will encounter some form of binge drinking on an American campus. This means that someone drinks in order to get drunk, and often can get alcohol poisoning as a result. Danger signs include vomiting, mental confusion, seizures, loss of consciousness and irregular or slow breathing. This can be fatal, so if you someone losing consciousness and still throwing up it’s a good idea to call campus safety, your RA, or 911 to get them to a hospital.

–       Drinking culture tip: You can turn down a drink. If you feel you have reached your drinking limit, you do not have to keep drinking.


Recreational drugs are illegal in the states, but that doesn’t always make them hard to find on college campuses. While the healthiest and smartest decision is not to partake in this activity, here are some things to remember:

–       Do not take drugs and drive—you endanger yourself and everyone around you.

–       Don’t take anything from strangers.

–       Don’t mix one kind of recreational drug with another kind of drug or with alcohol.

–       Be aware that many medications negatively interact with drugs, so if you or your friends are taking medication don’t mix with other recreational substances.

–       Be careful with how much you take.

–       Respect your space. If you have roommates who use drugs and you are uncomfortable, you have the right to say they are not allowed to do drugs in the room, and to set boundaries you are comfortable with. On the other hand, if you use drugs be respectful of the people you live with.

–       If you are on controlled medications like medicine for pain, sleep, or for learning disorders—keep them in a secure place. There is an increasing percentage of these kinds of medicines being stolen from college dorms.

–       Be aware than many campuses have strict no-tolerance policies about international students and recreational drug use, some of which may include expulsion and revoking your student visa.


Ever since the 1960’s the ideas of “free love” and “casual sex” have been popular on American college campuses. Many people do not behave this way, but here are some things to keep in mind:

–       Be direct. Americans can be very forward in relationships and sometimes can be thinking about a very short-term relationship instead of a long-term commitment. If you are not interested in someone else’s romantic overtures (verbal or physical), you must say so. This is especially important for girls as the drunk American college guy can be both persistent and oblivious to what you want. Unfortunately, it is up to you to set boundaries, and ladies, you may have to be more vocal than you are comfortable with. Remember you have every right to feel comfortable in your personal space, so help yourself make this happen. Americans tend to expect you to be direct and say something if you are uncomfortable. Going to a party with friends can make it easier to ward off unwanted romantic attention simply because there are more people to help you make your point.

–       Talk about it. If you are thinking about having a romantic relationship, make sure both of you have the same expectations.

–       Be safe. If you decide to be sexually active, be protected. You can find supplies at grocery stores, pharmacies, and most likely the student health office on campus. Some RAs will even provide supplies within the dorms. Sexually transmitted diseases are real and are common on college campuses.

–       Set boundaries. If you have roommates, it’s a good idea to talk about what you are comfortable with as you share the same space, and keep in mind you may have to compromise. For ex. If your roommate has a boyfriend, she most likely will expect him to be able to spend the night in the room. If you can accept that condition, it will be easier for you to negotiate that there be no romantic activities while you are present and to create a way to ask for privacy in the room in a way you are comfortable with.

–        Another unfortunate common event in college living, is the fact that many dorm room walls are thin and you may hear what other people are doing in the rooms next door. If you have sexually active neighbors, one solution I recommend is headphones, and if its particularly bad—invest in noise-canceling headphones, which can help you to avoid hearing any noise from your surroundings. I’ve had several friends who had to do this—so be forewarned that this can and does happen.

While some of this information can be intimidating and scary, don’t let this scare you off. Parties can be a great place to relax, dance, and meet other students. Drinking is a common form of socializing at American colleges, and can be a good way to let go of academics and kick back and have fun. College parties can provide a window into the life and culture of American students and can be a great opportunity to make friends. Just remember to be safe as you party on!


Here are more helpful links to help you stay safe:


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