FLOR PATINO, 21

Economics major • Lived in Ecuador until 9; continues to move back and forth.

"Once you turn 18 in Ecuador, people drink in moderation or at parties. But it's not binge drinking. I'm surprised getting drunk here is a big deal for people under 21. Even when you're under 18 in Ecuador, people drink wine with their families and at restaurants, and it's not a big deal. The driving age is also 18, but getting to drink and drive at the same time doesn't cause problems because, by 18, people are more responsible, mature and have family values. Family values are really important in Ecuador. You watch what you do so you don't bring shame to your family. If the drinking age was lowered in America to 18, I think it could put all the 18-year-olds at risk for binge drinking."

KENAN TROELLER, 20

Political science and international relations major • Lived in Sweden from 12 to 17, and still visits regularly.

"The Swedes don't treat alcohol as a taboo subject. The drinking age is 18 to buy and consume beer. If you're 18, you can also go out and consume hard liquor, but only in a controlled environment where it's served. You have to be 20 to buy hard liquor in stores. There's a lower drinking age because, in Europe, there's no universal car ownership, so there's not concern over drunk driving. Kids drink anyway, so the Swedes raise kids to be aware of their decisions. My brother is 17 and doesn't binge drink, which is prevalent here. In Sweden, they are more lax with IDing people at liquor stores because there is less incentive for kids to buy alcohol when they are not of age. People are more stressed here, and alcohol is used to release stress. But Sweden is so laid back. Alcohol is just used to chill and not to get crazy. The 21-year-old drinking age here is a little high. Honestly, the real issue is the car thing. If they lowered the drinking age, there would be a ridiculous amount of car accidents."

SAHRA MOHAMUD, 20, AND HANAN OSMAN, 22

Mohamud is a public relations major, and Osman a psychology major. Both are Somali and both have lived in the United States for more than a decade.

Sahra: "As Muslims, we don't drink at all. It's taboo."

Hanan: "Yes, that topic does not come up. Some of my non-Muslim friends think, 'Wow!' They get so shocked about me not drinking. 'Never?' I don't think my parents would allow me to be friends with people who drink, even non-Muslim friends."

Sahra: "For people who live here, it's starting to become normal. Some do go to clubs and there are those who drink. The older Somali generation would be so shocked with the obsession [here] with alcohol. In Western culture, there is beer in the fridge. So, living with people who do not drink helps."

KITTU MISHRA, 20

Computer science major •  Lived until age 13 in Chan-digarh, India, about two hours from Delhi.

"In Delhi, the drinking age is 25, but each state has its own laws. Three to four states completely ban drinking. In some states, it's 18; others go up to 25. I was never told not to drink. It was just a given. This stuff gets in the way of doing what you need to do. Here, it's the forbidden fruit. You make such a big deal out of it. In Europe, you don't hear stories about kids getting their stomachs pumped. Just because they can't [drink] makes them feel like that's what they want to do. In India, you really had to work hard to get what you wanted. Here in the United States, my dad calls it the Land of Plenty. That sense of entitlement gets in the way of judgment."

Gail Rosenblum • 612-673-7350

Hilary Dickinson is a University of Minnesota journalism student on assignment for Star Tribune.