By Taylor Forrest
Convergent copy editor

For college students, spring break is a time to forget about the labs, exams and papers that have dominated their lives for the past two and a half months. It’s a time to jump in the car with friends and head to Panama City, South Padre or the Gulf Shores to kick back, relax and ultimately, just have fun.

It’s no secret that for the most part, these college spring break destinations are an excuse to go to one long massive party to socialize and drink. These balmy, party-centered beach destinations draw college crowds reaching over hundreds of thousands.

While there is nothing wrong with letting loose and having fun, these spring break parties have started to receive more press coverage, revealing a darker and dangerous side to the typical college trip.

In 2015, Panama City, FL gained national attention after a video was released of an incapacitated female being gang raped on the beach while onlookers did nothing to stop it. Not long after this sinister incident, law enforcement was called to a house party after a shooting spree had broken out.

Panama City was not the only college destination to receive bad press in 2015. South Padre Island, TX also underwent speculation when two spring breakers were found dead.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recently released data that indicated that binge drinking is something nearly half of all college students partake in, and is taken to the extreme during spring break. While students may look on this as a rite of passage, or just “something you do in college,” 1,825 students per year pay the price of binge drinking with their life.

Sarah Hallinan, assistant dean of students, urges Southwestern students to be safe during spring break, regardless of where they travel.

“Be there with people you know to have people out there looking out for you. Make sure to have a plan if you plan on drinking,” said Hallinan. “Just be responsible and know your limits.”

Several Southwestern students plan on either traveling home or to a vacation spot during spring break. ShyAnne Wells, education junior, is one of the students traveling to a spring break destination next week. Wells will be headed to Gulf Shores with a group of girls. She said that she understands how spring break trips can be dangerous and said that she plans on taking certain precautions to ensure her safety.

“You just have to be aware of your surroundings,” said Wells. “Not only that, but I plan on staying hydrated throughout the week and using sunscreen to help battle sunburns.”

Regardless of whether you plan on drinking or not, here are some other tips to help you stay safe during spring break:

  • If you do decide to drink, know the liquor laws of wherever you’ll be vacationing.
  • Take your drink with you wherever you go to avoid someone slipping something into your beverage. Do not drink from open sources (i.e punch bowl, pitcher). Know where you drink came from and what’s in it.
  • Have a designated driver, or call an uber/cab to take you home.
  • Eat substantive food before drinking. Drinking on an empty stomach can cause the effects of alcohol to take place quicker.
  • Make sure to pace yourself while drinking, and to also continue to drink water to avoid dehydration.
  • Stick together with a group of friends.
  • Always have your cell phone on you.
  • Let your parent, roommate, friend or somebody else know when you plan on leaving and arriving.
  • Be smart about cash.
  • Create a code with friends to let them know when you are uncomfortable with a situation.

While it’s okay to let loose with friends, make sure to keep these safety tips in mind as we round the corner into spring break.

Taylor Forrest is sophomore majoring in communication. You may email her at taylor.forrest@sckans.edu.