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Spring break stereotypes gone wild

By Sierra Dole

“When I think of spring break, I think of the beach, partying in mass groups and a lot of drinking,” said Penn State graduate Colleen Klinefelter.

Klinefelter isn’t the only person to automatically link extreme vacations with the ever popular college spring break. When asked what first came to mind when they thought about spring break, 46 out of 50 randomly chosen Penn State students mentioned wild party scenes, scandalously clad women and binge drinking. Surprisingly enough, only 8 of those 50 students actually knew someone who took part in a stereotypical spring break.
“The variety of spring break experiences is huge,” said Nuno Ribeiro, a post-doctoral fellow at the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre at the University of Regina. “In certain spots and in certain cases, the stereotypes of spring break excesses are correct, but in other areas it’s not as extreme as the media seem to present.”
Penn State student Reina Chedid said that while most people associate spring break with wild parties, not all spring breaks actually turn out that way.
“Some people have this image of spring break of just a bunch of people being wasted the whole week and girls taking their tops off and whatnot,” said Chedid. “But it doesn’t have to be that way, and for a lot of people it isn’t that way. I just love to get away, lie on the beach and just forget about my normal daily life for a week to relax.”

According to Benjamin Hickerson, assistant professor of recreation, park and tourism management at Penn State, students who party often during the regular school year are likely to party during their spring break vacation as well.

“The more you are part of the party atmosphere in the university, the more likely you are to engage those behaviors during spring break,” Hickerson said. “You probably won’t completely deviate from your campus behaviors, and those behaviors are a very good predictor of how you’ll behave on spring break.”

However, even some students who regularly partake in the Penn State nightlife said that they have spent their spring breaks relaxing rather than partying.

“I always went down to Florida for spring break,” Klinefelter said. “But I always spent my time relaxing on the beach with my sister or at Disney. I went out enough with my friends during the school year, so I wanted to really focus on the real point of spring break: getting away and unwinding.”

So, why do so many people associate spring break with over-the-top stereotypes if the majority of students aren’t actually partaking in them?

“Probably because of television,” Chedid said. “People see what some do on spring break and want to top it or they just find it as a reason to go nuts while being away from their parents…and some stay away from it.”

Penn State student Hayley Amerman agreed that the media is the culprit behind spring break stereotypes.

“No one I know really goes on crazy spring break trips, but MTV and stuff like that make it seem like that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Amerman said.

Sure enough, television broadcasts during spring break contain outrageous party scenes hosted by MTV and Maxim. However, what most people don’t realize is that these TV programs are hosting the events. MTV chooses a vacation spot each year and provides food, alcohol and entertainment to throw a catered event with the aim to broadcast it as the unscripted lives of college students. In 2012, MTV hosted a spring break event in Las Vegas, booking popular music groups for the week.

This year, however, in addition to the usual spring break party events, MTV has partnered with the United Way and mtvU to host “Spring Fix,” an alternative spring break. MTV will send 50 college students to help rebuild areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.

“MTV does it to boost ratings for the network,” Klinefelter said. “They choose something that will be appealing for the college age segment to pull in an audience and just run with it until it’s exhausted. It’s all about…making money.”

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