Miami has famous beaches, a renowned nightlife and plenty of entertainment, but those are not enough to keep University of Miami students in South Florida for spring break. Instead, whether for relaxation or hard work, some students are attracted to traveling elsewhere for vacation.
About 5 percent of college students have encounters with the police or campus security because of alcohol, but during spring break, some students try to avoid these authorities by going abroad.
Sean Stokes, a sophomore, is going to Cancun, Mexico, citing its low drinking age as one of its attractions. He purchased a travel package from Orbitz, a travel Web site, for $750, which includes a five-night stay in Cancun with all-inclusive meals and drinks.
“[I am looking forward to] all you can drink and girls,” he said. “I think this trip is going to make me wish I was 21 when I come back to Miami.”
Packages such the one Stokes purchased use Mexico and other countries’ low drinking age as a big selling point.
Other popular destinations for spring break allow the 310,000 U.S. college students that smoke marijuana daily to do so legally. Amsterdam, for example, has marijuana bars, regulated brothels and a drinking age minimum of 16 years old.
Packages to Amsterdam on sunsplashtours.com include plane tickets and a week in a 10-person, two-star hotel room in downtown Amsterdam for $1,389 per visitor.
Although traveling abroad for spring break is popular, these spring breakers are not totally immune from the law. Each year 2,500 Americans are arrested in a foreign country; the majority of these arrests are for possession of illegal drugs.
Travelers are also at a disadvantage if they do not know the laws and customs of the place they are visiting.
“You do not want get arrested in Mexico, because you will be there for weeks,” said Chris Kieffer, a junior who went to Cancun last year.
Although he had a great time in Cancun, he said he realized that it can become a terrible place for tourists.
“There is a lot of weird stuff in Mexico, especially when you go to Cancun. They do not hesitate to arrest you,” Kieffer said. “It does not work like it works here.”
An ‘alternative’ option
Other students spend their time off volunteering at alternative spring breaks.
The university’s program, UM Alternative Breaks, has several sites scattered throughout the United States. The program is trying to add a foreign site for next year.
Students involved in these programs have prepared food for AIDS victims, helped teenage girls defeat sexism and teen pregnancy, and have educated rural migrant workers.
Interviews for these programs are conducted in October, and participants are notified about their acceptance between late October and early November.
Sarah Bouchereau, a junior, is vice chair for UM Alternative Break. As a freshman she went to a UM Alternative Break site in Kansas City.
“In Kansas we worked with children [coming] from poverty in an after-school program,” she said. “We worked in a classroom with 30 children and they told me about what they did for fun, home life, what they did that day.”
For this spring break, UM Alternative Break has 142 volunteers at 15 different sites. To find out more, call 305-284-GIVE.
Eddie Fishman may be contacted at email@example.com and Nina Ruggiero may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To know: The Drug Free Youth in Town organization is launching its fourth annual SoBe Sober campaign to educate students about drinking responsibly today on the University Green from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.