Whether you bombed your latest round of midterms or just feel worn down, you deserve a break. If you’re simply going home, give your mom a hug – she missed you. And if you are lucky enough to be escaping the Midwest, you’re probably making the annual college pilgrimage to the exotic hotspots south of the border. Before you let your hair down, though, it’s important to understand the local laws and customs and always treat yourself with some of that respect you’re always claiming you deserve. And after returning home, take a moment to consider the plight of the real people who live outside the resort world you just visited.

Sarah Royce

No one needs MTV’s “Spring Break” or the media ruckus over still-missing Alabama student Natalee Holloway, to know what can go wrong during Spring Break. Just as the birds start flying north for spring, students flock to tropical countries with lenient drinking laws and round-the-clock parties.

While sun, sex and booze can be the perfect combination for some, the three can also spell disaster. According to a Journal of American College Health study, the average male consumes nearly 18 drinks a day and the average female consumes almost 10 during Spring Break. It’s no wonder that each year alcohol-related incidents plague Spring Break: balcony falls, Jet Ski accidents, rapes, drownings and alcohol poisoning.

Spring Break also leads to less noticeably destructive behavior. As a recent American Medical Association survey reported, almost 60 percent of women reported knowing a friend who had unprotected sex and 57 percent reported viewing promiscuous behavior as a way to fit in. One word, kids: condoms. Whether your destination is Panama City or South Padre Island, be responsible and don’t bring back a scarlet letter. Or, you know, head trauma.

Also keep in mind the everyday respect your body needs. While the Casper look may not be too hot, it is much more appealing than skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen is easy and effective. Remember the old adage about tropical foreign destinations, too – don’t drink the water. People say it for a reason. Nothing could ruin a trip more than spending three days on the toilet.

When you’re off in a Spanish locale, knowing how to say “más cerveza” doesn’t mean that you know anything about the local custom and law. In Mexico, the prisons are less like those in Michigan and more like, say, Guantanamo Bay. In many countries, police officers can detain foreigners for extended periods of time just for mouthing off or carrying minor weapons like pocket knives. And there’s no U.S. Constitution to protect you.

Also, be aware that theft is prevalent and kidnappings do occur. It is important to keep your passport in a safe place, have a list of your credit card contacts, keep an eye on your friends, only use certified taxis and have plans and contacts ready in case things go wrong.

Finally, when you make it back to Ann Arbor safely, remember that the resort you stayed at or the stops you made along your booze cruise were only a small glimpse of what those countries are actually like. Believe it or not, everyone in Jamaica is not a laid-back Rastafarian. Even Haiti, the world’s most direly forlorn country, has Royal Caribbean cruise ships docking at its port at Labadie. While it’s great that the famished nation can pick up some pennies from tourism, the majestic beaches are just a fa

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