College students who study abroad may represent a subgroup at risk for increased drinking while living in foreign countries. The present study explores this idea as well as the extent to which students' pre-abroad perceptions of study-abroad student drinking are related to actual drinking while abroad.
Ninety-one students planning to study abroad completed an online survey of demographics, pre-abroad drinking behavior, perceptions of study-abroad student drinking behavior while abroad, and intentions to drink while abroad. Halfway into their study-abroad experience, participants completed a follow-up survey assessing drinking while abroad.
Pre-abroad intentions of drinking and pre-abroad perceptions of study-abroad drinking were associated with actual drinking while abroad. However, perceptions predicted actual drinking while abroad over and above intended drinking. In addition, although participants overall did not significantly increase their drinking while studying abroad, participants with higher pre-abroad perceived norms significantly increased their own drinking behavior while abroad.
As in other samples of college students, perceived norms appear to be an important correlate of study-abroad student drinking behavior. Findings suggest that perceptions of study-abroad student-specific drinking predicted not only actual drinking while abroad but also increases in drinking from pre-abroad levels. Findings provide preliminary support for the idea that presenting prospective study-abroad students with accurate norms of study-abroad student-drinking behavior may help prevent increased or heavy drinking during this period.