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The Weekend Drinker

Four years go by so fast. In order to live these years to the fullest, you head to the bars Monday, Tuesday…heck, if it ends in ‘day,’ you’re there! You’re not an alcoholic, you’re a college student…right?
Heavy drinking, or binge drinking, which constitutes having five or more drinks in one sitting, is widely accepted among college students, but this behavior is not necessarily tolerated after college. Bree Cohen, advertising sophomore, said, “Later on in life, binge drinking isn’t acceptable, but in our atmosphere it is accepted, if not encouraged.”
[side2] Deb Newhouse, a social worker in Traverse City, explained that a binge drinker in the real world is considered an alcoholic. “It is hard to say whether or not a college student is an alcoholic because they may grow out of a binge drinking phase,” Newhouse said. “An obvious sign of addiction is repeated problems with alcohol.” These signs may include failing classes, losing a job, getting arrested or having to leave college because of problems with alcohol. For instance, getting arrested on a Friday is not an excuse to miss class the next week.
Students may view binge drinking differently than others, including what addictive behavior might look like. Tom Springsteen, psychology junior, said, “I think when people drink heavily alone, alcohol is a problem.”
Other problems students saw were using alcohol as an escape. Nikki Mankowski, social relations junior said, “I think when young people use alcohol to escape reality it is a problem.”
Many college students see binge drinking as an outlet, but binging is very dangerous. Barbara Russell, a social worker from Traverse City, agrees. “If a student is avoiding responsibility and more interested in getting high, there is a problem with alcoholism,” she said. Some major consequences include accidental overdose, causing sickness or death; drunk driving; blackouts and loss of sensory perception.
For those still unaware, alcoholism is a disease and the craving an alcoholic feels for alcohol can be as powerful as the need for water. An alcoholic will continue to drink despite serious family, legal or health problems. As with several other diseases, alcoholism is chronic, meaning it lasts a person’s entire lifetime; it usually follows a predictable course and it has symptoms. The risk for developing alcoholism is influenced by a person’s genes and also by his or her lifestyle.
[life] According to Newhouse, the risk of developing alcoholism does run in families. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports the genes a person inherits partially explain this pattern, but lifestyle is also a factor. Currently, researchers are working to discover the actual genes putting people at risk for alcoholism. Your friends, the amount of stress in your life and the availability of alcohol are factors that may increase a person’s risk for alcoholism.
However, just because alcoholism runs in families doesn’t mean the child of an alcoholic parent or relative will automatically become an alcoholic. Some people develop alcoholism even though no one in their family has a drinking problem. “A child of an alcoholic parent or relative will not automatically become an alcoholic, too, but the child may be predisposed to alcoholism,” Russell said. Additionally, not all children of alcoholic families get into trouble with alcohol. Awareness of your family’s history is important. In turn, you can take precautionary steps to protect yourself from developing problems.
“When young people enter “the real world,” they begin to realize the consequences of their actions,” Mankowski said. This may ring true for many students who are entering the job force or starting a family. There are more responsibilities after college, thus more consequences for heavy drinking. For instance, blacking out at a company Christmas party most likely won’t push you up the ladder to success.
[child] If you think you may have a problem, there are some important questions to ask yourself: Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking? Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking? Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking? Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover? You may not be an alcoholic, but abusing alcohol can also have major consequences.
Alcohol abuse can ruin families, relationships and lives. If you have failed classes, gotten arrested, have frequent blackouts or have had reoccurring problems when using alcohol, you may need to reevaluate your drinking habits. Take a look at yourself and the people in your life, because it may save some lives, including your own.
Besides, what good are these four years if you can’t remember them?

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The Good Life

My boyfriend recently read a few of my editorials and said “why do you always write about negative things?” At first I was a bit perturbed but then I thought, maybe I have been a bit pissed off lately. So throughout the week, I took an inventory of some things that made me smile…

1. Rain drops on Roses and Chocolate Easter Bunnies…- There’s nothing like receiving a chocolate bunny and a love note from your mom on a dreary day. The bunny is still sitting on my desk because it’s way too cute to eat.

2. John Stamos- Although, the new show “Jake in Progress” isn’t the most sophisticated creation in the world, Uncle Jesse is sizzlin’! It’s good to see his hot ass back on Primetime and luckily without the old mullet.

3. Sex and the City Re-runs- On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, SATC runs on TBS. Although I have seen them all, they are still SO GOOD. Boys, you can even watch it too… and please take notes.

4. A compliment from a stranger- I love receiving a compliment, especially from a stranger. I have only learned to accept compliments in the last few years, because I use to be one of those girls that would deny a compliment, blush and act like a moron. Thank God, I’m done with that phase.

5. Starbucks- The atmosphere at Starbucks is so serene. As I sat people watching with my Rice Krispie treat and Café Mocha on Tuesday, I realized life is grand! Its amazing how a little sugar buzz from Starbucks can change your whole perspective on life.

6. 55 degree weather- Well, it’s officially summer; so fabulous to see all you Spartans back in shorts. I counted four pairs today as I was jogging on Grand River. I even saw a Spartan donning a speedo! I love Michiganders!

7. Green and White- The women’s basketball team and the men’s have advanced to the Final Four. As a former basketball player and a true MSU fan, I am truly proud to be a Spartan!

It is too easy to get caught up in the negatives in life. Step outside your box, compliment a stranger, read a trashy magazine, buy yourself a new outfit or just try smiling.
And don’t worry, I’ll be back next week…I’ve got some more complaining to do.

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LifeThreatening Boogey Nights

With the recent death of an MSU student in an accidental overdose and the hospitalization of a close friend who drank too much on his 21st birthday, I have been heavily reflecting on why college students continue to over do it.
College binge drinking is an epidemic. While some students choose other ways to spend their free time, a majority of students are heading to the bar, a frat or a friend’s house for some binge drinking, which is technically 5 drinks or more. I am not going say that I don’t participate in some partying on the weekends, but there is a time, a place, and a limit. When a student doesn’t know their limit, serious problems are on the horizon.[kill]
Time and time again, there are deaths, hospitalizations, assaults, and several unfortunate events that occur when students do not know there limit. And let’s face it nothing really great ever occurs when you are drinking. Have you ever stopped to think that your future employer could be sitting across the bar watching you? How embarrassing. Or your family, I don’t know about you, but the few times my parents have seen me smashed, I felt like a total moron for the next month whenever I had to face them. Additionally, I may look cute to another drunk, but do you really think you are going to find a quality prospect for a partner at a East Lansing bar. It’s possible, but probably not. Trust me, you don’t look that hot after 8 cocktails.
And what’s with the 21 shots on your 21st birthday? Twenty-one shots of alcohol can kill you. This birthday celebration is more like playing Russian roulette. The body can only digest .01 on the BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) level every forty minutes. One drink is .02. Do the math; the 21 shots might digest 2 days later. Don’t play roulette with your fragile body, you only get one so take care of it.
To give some sense of the scope of college drinking, 12 million undergraduates drink 4 billion cans of beer a year according to a study done by Harvard School of Public Health. It’s sad, that this study may be underestimating the magnitude of college drinking. College students have been educated about binge drinking, but obviously education isn’t enough. If the death of a peer isn’t enough then I don’t know what is.
Although a lot of the action in East Lansing might seem like it has to do with drinking, there are fun and healthier activities to partake in. Switch things up a bit; try going to the movies or spending your bar money on a really nice dinner out with friends. Have you seen how many cute singles hang out at Beaners or Starbucks on a Friday night?
If you do choose to travel to the bar for some cocktails, drink responsibly. Use common sense, know your limits and travel with friends that you trust. I would hate to see an MSU student’s irresponsible actions turn into another tragedy.

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Avoiding Trouble in Paradise

Whether you’re trekking through Europe on an adventurous backpacking tour, traveling to Mexico for sun and sand or making the short flight to South Beach or Margaritaville, I have some news for you.
Traveling, especially overseas, requires a lot of preparation. You will need all your travel documents, such as passport, visa, itinerary and travel insurance, which Kelly Loredo, travel adviser for the Student Travel Agency (STA), strongly emphasizes. “Travel insurance may sound like a sales pitch, but it can save you from a lot of agony in an unfortunate and unexpected situation,” Loredo said. Travel insurance costs $43 for eight days, and includes medical expenses, trip cancellations and contact information for an English-speaking doctor in any country. Insurance also covers baggage loss and airline bankruptcy.
[ruin] Although you do not need a passport to travel to Mexico, it is essential to have a birth certificate; a couple forms of identification, such as a driver’s license or state I.D. and other appropriate travel documents, such as tickets and/or reservations.
Additionally, if you are headed south of the border, you should avoid drinking the tap water. Wendy Stahl, STA branch manager, said, “All vacationers traveling to Mexico should drink bottled water to avoid illness.” Montezuma’s Revenge, also known as travelers’ diarrhea, has ruined many spring breaks.
Merchandising management junior Kelly Patton always prepares for spring break by packing her Pepto Bismol and a few other over-the-counter remedies. “I have a sensitive stomach, but I love to try different foods from other cultures, so I always stock up,” Patton said.
Another essential health tip is avoiding overexposure to the sun. Many Michiganders ignorantly take their winter skin down south and burn it to a crisp. Greg Kaltz, an English junior traveling to West Palm Beach for spring break, said he keeps that thought in mind. “To avoid sunburn, I always slap on the SPF 15, no more, no less,” he said. Remember, you can still get a tan even if you are wearing sunscreen. Use at least SPF 15 and avoid being in the sun for too long during midday, when the skin is most vulnerable.
[sta] When traveling in or out of the United States, spring breakers should carry a copy of emergency contact information in case of an unexpected medical emergency. Another very important tip for travelers is to carry three forms of money. “Never carry too much cash,” Loredo said. “You should have travelers’ checks, cash and a credit card.” She also suggests travelers should never bring any valuables that cannot be replaced. Pickpockets and thieves prey on naive spring breakers and foreigners, so always make sure your belongings are on you at all times.
It is important for spring break travelers to use common sense. When you are ready to go out at night, and you’ve had a few cocktails, remember it’s always good to travel in groups. The vacationer mindset, when combined with alcohol, often lowers one’s inhibitions. Also, think twice about random spring break hook-ups, and always protect yourself; you’d hate to bring home a little souvenir like an unwanted pregnancy or STD. It is also important to research the area before you go, either on the Internet or with travel guidebooks such as Lonely Planet, Fodor’s or Rick Steve’s, so you are familiar with your destination.
M.J. Garrett of The Real World: Philadelphia, who is fresh off a trip to Hawaii and has traveled to Fiji, sponsored by STA Travel, said young people need to make the most of their vacation. He expressed the importance of keeping an open mind when experiencing other cultures and people. “Young people need to get the full experience of the culture by getting out, getting active and soaking it up,” Garrett said.
[sidebar] While in Fiji, he experienced a traditional meal with the Fijians, who welcomed the American tourists with open arms. “Really, Fiji is still in the beginning stages of development; it is so pure and has not been Americanized yet,“ Garrett said. “We can learn so much from other cultures.” Traveling can change your whole perspective on life, so it is important to open yourself up to new experiences.
Other tips Garrett offered to college travelers were to take a camera and capture the moment, and to journal the experiences. “Otherwise the images, tastes and smells will fade in your memory,” he warned. Garrett also said young people should respect the place they are traveling to because they are in other people’s territory. As Americans, we hope foreigners would also respect our home if they were traveling to the States.
Step outside your comfort zone and experience other cultures’ food, people and scenery. And most importantly, use common sense when traveling to unfamiliar places. Research the area and its attractions and find out what shots or other precautions you might need prior to departure.
And don’t forget the Pepto Bismol.

For more information, contact STA Travel located at 207 E. Grand River Ave or call at 517-432-7722.

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Get a Dictionary

As I sat reading the newspaper recently, I overheard two college students interacting. When one of the guys said, “You are so gay!” I thought to myself, is that the best you can do?
The “gay” word is used far too often in typical conversation between college students. I’ve heard the word used to describe a deficient cell phone, a tough test or an inept professor. I began thinking, when did “gay” become a bad word?
Politically speaking, the word gay is not bad, does not mean bad and to be gay should have no negative connotations. However, discrimination against the LGBT community has been all-too present in society for decades. Although America has come a long way regarding gay issues, the bigoted use of “gay” is just another example of the blatant homophobia still present in our culture.
Webster has given the word meanings such as light, happy and the sexual attraction to persons of the same sex. So why then has “gay” turned into a synonym for stupid? College students use the term to describe anything in their lives that does not suit their standards or deviates from the so-called “norm.” When using the term in a derogatory fashion, you are not only demeaning homosexuality, but also you are cheapening yourself. Using the term as hate exposes a person’s ignorance and lack of intellectual ability on all levels. The use of “gay” to describe something negative is also a cop out of the English language. And even if you aren’t using the word as a weapon, you still risk offending a person in the LGBT community.
So instead of using insensitive language, say what you really mean. Dig deeper, elaborate, explain yourself and your emotions with some class. The word “gay” does not express that a person, place or thing is bad or defective, it only divulges the limitations of your vocabulary. After all, with $50,000 invested in your marvelous MSU education, you should be able to conjure up a line with a little more intelligence. Try a bit harder when insulting your friend, cell phone, test or professor. Our generation needs to set an example for the future, that we will not tolerate prejudice and hate.
The history of using the word “gay” goes back to a time when homosexuals were judged as second-class citizens. The use of words like homo, queer, dyke or faggot were acceptable by previous generations to degrade LGBT people, something I’d like to think we don’t want to do anymore. At some point, the word “gay” became a phrase to call anyone or anything odd, weird or stupid. Gays, lesbians and bisexuals were called homo, queer, dyke or faggot because a great portion of the previous generations opposed their lifestyle and wanted to deliberately belittle them, but wait a minute – it’s our generation’s turn to make the rules! American youth has overused “gay” as a negative word and we need to change its usage with our generation. Many young people declare they are liberal-minded and they are open to diversity. Yet they continue to use this word in a derogatory manner. Time’s up. As our generation comes of age, we can set our own standards for our speech. “Gay” as negative or hate speech is out.

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Your Cheatin’ Heart

You don’t know right from wrong/well the love we had is gone/so blame it on your lying, cheating, cold dead-beating/Two-timing, double dealing/Mean mistreating, loving heart…
During any given night in East Lansing, many “committed” individuals decide to seal their fate, give into temptation and deceive their significant others. These people are known as cheaters.
Everyone has experienced a cheater, whether personally, through friends or in sappy ballads like the lovelorn Patti Loveless song, “Blame It on Your Heart.” Infidelity can have very painful effects, so why do people cheat on their lovers?
There is not a single answer to this question, but there are several common causes. At a university of over 40,000 people, we find ourselves in a large pool of young, vibrant singles. And, as English junior Jen Stimpson said, we are here to meet people. “In young love that doesn’t have a final commitment or responsibility, temptation often overtakes reason,” she said.[quo]
Deb Newhouse, a social worker and relationship therapist in Traverse City, said college students cheat for distinct reasons. “College students may cheat on their lover because they feel that they might miss out on something,” Newhouse said. “This is usually an illusion.” Reaching our full potential in our relationships and as individuals is a nice idea, but this thought can get confusing when we begin to believe a relationship will be better with a new love.
Newhouse also said cheating occurs, “because they think that something better is out there; society tells them that they shouldn’t settle.” Newhouse pointed out even if a young person has something good going with a boyfriend or girlfriend, he or she often thinks something “great” could develop with someone else.
William Gray, a Detroit psychologist and relationship therapist, explained another important reason young people may have an urge to cheat. “There is an emotional spark or ‘fever’ in the beginning of a relationship,” Gray said. “This emotional high usually lasts from three to 18 months. After the initial attraction and the emotional high are gone, some relationships move on to an unconditional love.” But cheaters often move on to another person to once again feel that “fever.”
[heart] Of course, we have all experienced the excitement of attraction. Cheaters choose to act on these emotions while truly committed individuals might be aware of the attraction, take note of it and move on.
Corey Thon, a communications senior, believes many people cheat because of impaired judgment. When alcohol or other substances are involved, committed individuals are easily tempted by physical attraction as their inhibitions dwindle. But being drunk is no excuse. “If a guy cheats then that’s it,” Thon said. “There should be no reconciliation, because no matter what, there was some part of him that really didn’t want a relationship.” The same goes for unfaithful women.
Media and society also play important roles in our decisions about committed relationships. Growing up, we may have learned one of the major reasons we come to a university is to get an education, reach our full potential and make something of ourselves. American society is often built around the notion that we should strive for the best things in life, thus college students are shooting for the ultimate car; the dream job and maybe, subconsciously, the perfect mate. Perhaps the person we’re with isn’t what we feel is perfect, so we begin looking elsewhere.
Some may see infidelity as an escape from dealing with problems. With divorce rates climbing higher each year, young people have fewer role models for healthy relationships. Instead of working through hard times with their significant others, individuals may see cheating as an easy way out, rather than putting the time and effort into making the relationship work.
But, of course, maturity levels play a key role, and most people between 18 and 23 are just now developing the internal value of commitment. With time and experience, most well-adjusted young people learn how to commit their lives to someone else.
So don’t worry if Patti’s song brings tears to your eyes today; there’s hope that you, and those you date, won’t be humming that tune for long. But until the music stops and you’re settled till death do you part, remember tonight’s actions will have consequences tomorrow.
Even in a college town, on any given night.

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Till Death Do Us (Gulp) Part

Diamonds, doves, a flowing white dress, dancing and a little bubbly… ain’t love grand? After a lavish wedding, a romantic honeymoon, the fireworks start to die down, and young married couples return to a not-so charming place: reality.
We all recognize this important vow: “Until death do us part.” These words mean forever. And with the divorce rate pushing 50 percent, why rush it?
With the odds against them, some young couples are very successful with an immense amount of work, love and, most importantly, communication. But, it isn’t easy.
“Many young couples have an idealistic view of marriage,” Nancy Denny, a marriage counselor, said. “They fail to plan or look far enough into the future of their relationship.”
[wedme] In our early twenties, most of us are still growing as individuals. This can make it very difficult to develop simultaneously as a couple. After two people take their vows, they must begin thinking and functioning as a domestic unit.
Mere Rataj, newlywed and recent MSU graduate, explained marriage as a two-edged sword. “I am married to my best friend and he is always there for me,” she said. “But, on the other hand, he is always there. There is a realization that things are final. We can’t just break up when we have an argument; we are married now and we have to deal with our problems on a daily basis, together.”
Before taking the plunge, Denny said it is very important for couples to witness their partner’s behavior in several situations. “When young couples decide to get married right out of college, sometimes they may have only spent time together in a social setting,” Denny said. It is important to spend time together in several different challenging situations, where you can’t just escape the conflict and head back to your own apartment.
The first year of marriage is often the most difficult period for many newlyweds. Nancy Brown, a social worker, said, “How you feel six months into marriage is not a good indicator of how you might feel five to 10 years into a healthy relationship.” Brown also expressed that many young couples bail early in the relationship before they get comfortable. It is important to always keep the lines of communication open.
One of the biggest stressors for young married couples is money. Many recent college graduates are still paying off student loans. On top of that comes the price of the wedding itself, which can put a major dent in a couple’s wallet. According to Barbara Howard of Bride’s Other Mother Planning Service out of Clinton Township, Mich., the average cost of a wedding is $20,000. Is one day of festivities really worth going into the first year of marriage in debt?
Rataj wished she wouldn’t have spent so much money and attention on her big day. “I was so worried about matching my cocktail napkins with my wedding cake that I failed to see the consequences.” A wedding is a very important celebration, but if a couplecan’t afford fancy nuptials then they shouldn’t blow their savings on something they’ll be paying for five years down the road. Young couples might want to plan something special yet simple with close friends and family.
Dominic Held, sophomore physics major, said, “I have learned that I cannot be self-centered in my marriage.” Held also believes brides and grooms-to-be must accept their future spouse, because they are not going to change the other after marriage. A common myth in many relationships is that once you are married, a relationship will suddenly change or improve.
Although Denny warns of the challenges ahead, she has also seen many young relationships succeed. She suggests that a couple should undergo at least six weeks of some kind of marriage counseling, whether it be with a therapist, priest or other professional before the wedding. These sessions can help acquaint a couple on an otherwise undiscovered level.
Marriage is a life-altering change. With any such transformation potential honeymooners should have a strong support system. It is vital to have a network of both mutual friends and personal friends. Another essential factor is having a solid family support structure. For young married couples, it is not unusual to receive some parental financial support in the first few years of marriage. Once again, it is important to receive guidance outside this circle. Marriage counseling can be very beneficial if both partners are willing to work at it.
Marriage is truly a beautiful and blessed journey. Being in a new marriage can be a wonderful time filled with many special experiences, from buying a new house together to getting a new puppy to bringing a child into the world. There will be good days and bad days. But, if you’re thinking of tying the knot anytime soon, love isn’t the only ingredient necessary to sustain a union. It is important to have lived independently before sharing your life with one person forever. Once married, keep a date night with your spouse, seek outside support, communicate and stick with it. And remember, there is no such thing as a “perfect marriage.”

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