Ryan Chartrand

As Cal Poly students, we have all taken or at some point will take ENGL 145 or the speech equivalent. So if you can remember back to that class (sorry to spoil the surprise of argumentative reasoning for those of you who are not lucky enough to have finished your Area A GEs) and think about some of the common topics debated, chances are most of you hit upon the heated subject of lowering the drinking age. Although it does seem unlikely that any college student believes the drinking age should be kept at 21, there are a few of us out there who don’t consume alcohol. Yes, I am included in that very minute figure, although my reasons for just saying no differ from most: I’d rather spend my money on clothes at Harrods (think Nordstrom) and my calories on dinner at Wagamamma’s (think PF Chang’s but with Japanese food). And just because I don’t imbibe, doesn’t mean I’m adverse to the idea of bringing down the legal age of consumption to 18. In fact, living in England for almost a year now has really brought me to the belief that waiting 21 years before reaching lawful drinking is (mind the English phrasing) a complete load of bollocks! Freshman, take note; you might want to use this in your ENGL 145 debate.

The first day I arrived at Brunel University in West London way back in September, one of the contacts (basically a WOW leader) asked me if I was going to the disco that night. At first I was a little downhearted as I had left all my costumes at home and had no go-go boots and hot pants to get a true case of disco fever. But I decided I would attend and asked where it was. After being given an odd look and explained to that “disco” simply means dance club and pleather was not only unnecessary, but ill-advised, I was informed the night would begin at Loco’s, one of the three bars on campus, and then be moved to the Academy, our campus’s night club. Since I had only been 20 when I left the states, I hadn’t really experienced a bar and my only clubbing was limited to The Graduate. But in England, 20 was well passed the age of bar-frequenting and club-hopping and I wanted to embrace the English culture as much as possible, so I was looking forward to the night.

When I walked into Loco’s I saw groups of students everywhere, pint of lager in one hand and fag in the other (that’s beer and cigarette). Since it was freshers’ week, most of the students were 18. Around 11 p.m., those same 18-year-olds started to filter into the Academy to dance, pint in one hand and fag in the other. I followed suit, minus the alcohol and tobacco, and had such a fun night I promised myself to go out dancing as much as possible!

The same Brunel faces turn up to Academy every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and as I kept the pact I made with myself, I am guilty of being one of those faces. (Perhaps “study abroad” should be changed to “party abroad with a few exams.”) Everyone pre-parties at Loco’s or the Hub, another on-campus bar. They also meet there for drinks before class, after class, or when we had the VERY rare week of sunshine, during class. And the thing that always strikes me is how much money the university is making! Because everyone is of legal drinking age, everyone can hang out there. It is an incredibly social environment, many of the friends I have made this year have been met at the bar or club. If the legal drinking age in America was 18 we could have bars on our campus as well that everyone could go to and spend money at and really give back to the student union. Profit is made off of non-drinkers too. When I think how much money I spent on Diet Coke, I might have a small Prada handbag instead of a body filled of aspertain. And Academy is great for people like me because I can dance sober, my friends can dance drunk, and we can all have an equally good time. Entrance is pretty inexpensive too, so I don’t feel I’m spending too much going three times a week. Although, the amount of money I have spent on costume-making materials for Monday nights (theme nights) and party-clothes for other nights does create a slight sense of guilt. But I justify it by saying that’s money saved from not spending on alcohol.

If I had a British pound for every time someone asked me if the parties in America are like the ones in the movies, I would have quite a bit of money and twice the amount in dollars since the exchange rate is atrocious. What I’ve come to realize is that we are forced to have house parties in America because only a handful of university students are actually old enough to go to the bars. A lower drinking age allows for a club on campus, which creates a more social environment and makes money for the school. Brunel taught me that 18 is the perfect legal drinking age; Cal Poly taught me to formulate my argument using substantial evidence and personal anecdotes.

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