Beyond the Bubble: Why I'm Doing My FSP Sober

By May Mansour, The Dartmouth Staff | 10/7/15 9:09am

Within 18 hours of landing in Paris, I received a text from my best friend asking if I was already hammered. Needless to say, I wasn't nearly as inebriated as she wished I were. Instead I had spent hours scavenging for WiFi and weeping over a simultaneously stale and soggy baguette sandwich because AIRPORT SECURITY STOLE MY NEW SNEAKERS.

But I get it. I'm in Paris, I'm young, I have all my teeth and I'mjustunder obese according to my BMI, so I should be raging. And I'm tempted, I promise. Walking into a Parisian bar at 19 and being able to order anything I want is apretty surreal experience. I can only compare it to that of a prepubescent boy when his creepy Uncle Stu sneaks him into the back of a Spencer's, winks and tells him to pick out a birthday gift. (Try to ignore that in this analogy my Uncle Stu is the Fifth FrenchRepublic.)
But despite the drinking culturehere and the madhouse that is my Bobo neighborhood, I promised myself I would stay sober this term. I made this decision a few nights ago after going out with some friends. The night was going great — we bought really (really) cheap wine and drank it by the Seine before grabbing a few beers and hitting up a shot bar in Oberkampf. I drank things that were lit on fire, I watched a friend do the "Monica Lewinksy" — a rubber penis was involved — and I grabbed anoutrageously tasty falafel near the metro.

But then I realized that I had to get home alone, and unlike my classmates who all live in the same nearby neighborhood, I had to trek to the opposite side ofthe city. I had the luxury of taking two metros and walking home alone at 2 a.m., which wouldn't have been a problem if I were at Dartmouth. Except I wasn't in Hanover — I was in Gambetta.

The café terraces lining the streets were brimmingwith people, but I still didn't feel safe. The 6'2" middle-aged man following me and screaming "don't be afraid" didn't help. I've been catcalled and followed more in Paris in the past two weeks than I have in a lifetime of living in Jersey City. While that's absolutely not my fault, half the reason I felt scared was because ofme, not the strange man walking on my heels. I didn't feel like I could protect myself from anything at all, let alone this scumbag. I could barely manage to get one foot in front of the other. I felt scared and nauseous and sleepy — and most of all, worried that others could tell that I was so incapable.

I eventually got home and fell into bed, but when I woke up the next morning I couldn't believe how reckless I had been.Why can't you get it through your thick skull that you're not at Dartmouth anymore? This is not an isolated campus. You are not surrounded by trusted friends. There is no S&S. There is no Safe Ride. You must charge your phone. You must be responsible for your own health and safety. You are an adult.

Cue my newfound sobriety policy. This doesn't mean that I'm not allowed to drink alcohol or have a good time with my friends. It just means that I've decided to drink responsibly because it's worth the peace of mind. Case in point — I was out until 7 a.m. at an all-night arts festival last weekend. I walked through several art expos, I waited in line in the freezing cold until 5 a.m. to listen to classical music, I watched a friend scale the Pompidou (and subsequently be escorted down by police). I did this all while sober — and it was incredible. I felt safe, I felt happy and I felt present. I plan on keeping it that way.

May Mansour, The Dartmouth Staff