How my daughter’s Fiji trip was hurt by drug abuse

My daughter A- is 6200 miles away as I write this, just outside the capital city of Suva, Fiji. It’s the other hemisphere, so while we’re limping slowly into spring, she’s getting to enjoy the tail end of the Fijian summer. She’s there in a gap year program organized by a third party company, a three-month adventure that’s also taken her to New Zealand and, next, to Australia for her last month.

The group started out with about a dozen young adults, ranging from 19-22, and about 60% male. One boy unfortunately got hurt while surfing in New Zealand and ended up having to come home early.

fiji beachfront

And then there’s what’s happened in their last week on Fiji. Before I explain, however, it’s important to know that the group has stayed together the whole time and that there are two adult supervisors on the trip with them too, so it’s not just “here’s a ticket, have fun”. Further, each participant signed a behavior agreement stating that they would live by the group agreement of no drugs, no alcohol, and being respectful towards each other.

Which is why it was such a shock to get this email from the organization’s leader:

A few days ago it came to light that several pills from one student’s prescription medication supply had gone missing. Over the last several days the organizers have met with the group all together as well as individually on multiple occasions to get to the bottom of the situation… We are currently in the process of gathering information about who was involved in distributing and consuming the medication. So far four students have come forward and taken accountability for their actions.

That’s bad enough, but then one day later, the update:

After giving each of the students an opportunity to come forward about what they had done we learned that 6 boys had been breaking our Sacred Six Policies on several occasions, including consuming alcohol, breaking curfew, and doing unprescribed drugs. This came as a huge shock to us, as well as a disappointment. We know how many of our students have worked so hard to make this semester a reality and are saddened to learn that several students broke trust and put themselves and others in danger. For this reason, we made the decision to withdraw all 6 students from our program. All of them are currently on a flight back home.

1 in 6 teens abuses prescription drugsThe dozen young adults who started this trip are now down to five: The four girls from the original group and the one young man who apparently had nothing to do with the huge lapses in judgment. While it is somewhat like an Agatha Christie story, it’s also a sad statement on the crappy judgment and sheer stupidity of people in the late teens and early twenties. Prescription drug abuse among teens is a huge problem that most people have no idea about. More than that, I expect teens to be stupid, it’s in their DNA as they achieve the physical characteristics of adults while they still have years of maturation left to accomplish, but stealing one person’s prescription drugs and taking them for a thrill is particularly idiotic in my opinion.

What’s saddest is that my daughter joined this group with great enthusiasm, hoping for a really great three month life adventure in the South Pacific, and while she’s getting that, she’s also being reminded of the fact that for every person that’s a gem and great addition to your life, there are at least a half-dozen losers out there, kids (and adults) who are better at arm’s length or “unfriended” entirely.

A good life lesson, but… a crappy life lesson too. And the boys that were part of this idiocy? I don’t even have words for their behavior. I just hope that their karmic comeuppance is a bitch.

Note: I’m not naming the organization because I don’t see that they’re at all responsible for the behavior of individuals on one of their gap year trips. They seem to have handled it all as best they can, and sending students home early for violating the rules? I respect them immensely for that decision. It’s the boys who were so damn stupid in the first place, they’re the ones I’m upset with.

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