Is the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ calling out to you? Are you planning on studying in the U.S but you’re worried about your safety on the campus or in an unknown country? People are usually filled with anxiety when it comes to these situations and often guidelines help calm that nervousness down. Potentially harmful situations can be easily avoided if you are prepared to identify and avoid vulnerabilities.
Recognizing Environmental and Behavioral Vulnerabilities
It’s imperative that the following statements induce clarity to the obvious precautions; there’s a false sense of security that campus is safe. Walking alone on or off campus after dark is an added risk. Walking through deserted areas or alleys is dangerous, especially if you don’t know how to identify areas with a high crime rate. In terms of getting help in deserted areas after dark, residential zones are more likely to respond faster compared to corporate zones.
As a generation, we are never without our headphones. That makes it difficult to pay attention to our surroundings and people. Hence it is advisable to always remain vigilant and do your research on the places new to us.
Safety on Campus
Don’t leave belongings unattended in library or classrooms on campus. There could be locker privileges available in certain universities if the need arises.
Prevent identity theft and follow cyber security measures with regards to phishing scams and cybercrimes. If you get confused with the legitimacy of any department asking you to pay for something, you can always ask your university and confirm with them.
You could request for a campus escort if you need to get to on-campus destinations after dark. Though, it’s better to be mindful of the campus police’s work timings.
Off Campus Living
Sometimes, lower rents for living may seem attractive enough for us to go for a place, but it might also mean that the neighborhood is less secure. To be sure, it’s better to get to know your neighbors so that they can keep an eye on strangers who might be trying to breach your security and increase safety.
It’s vital to make sure your fire extinguisher and first aid kit is up-to-date as we often take it for granted. In case of fire or theft, Renter’s Insurance is a low cost protection that you could apply for.
Last but not the least; don’t be afraid to report a crime to the authorities. They are always available to help.
Around the City
Befriend the locals and ask them which areas are safe. The term, “Walk with Purpose” is fitting if you’re alone. Loitering around and looking unsure gives away the fact that you’re new.
Stay in well lit, public areas. Sometimes, Google Maps show shortcuts that would normally be okay in India, but in the US, longer routes are safer as they are less deserted.
Some Bus Apps have real time trackers that indicate how long a bus will take to reach a stop. That way, you don’t have to wait alone at the bus stop when you could just reach on time with the bus.
Excessive or Underage Alcohol Consumption
Going abroad screams freedom and universities naturally has a drinking culture. The legal age to drink alcohol is 21 years old and you are legally responsible for your actions under the influence of alcohol. Any crime or disruption committed in that state is counted.
Watch your drink whenever you’re at a party, and don’t leave it unattended. There are possibilities of someone dropping pills or drugs in your drink. You could also read up on “Alcohol Education” for more detailed information.
Unfamiliar Weather and Disasters
The US is a massive country which is susceptible to all forms of weathers and disasters like tornados, blizzards, hurricanes etc. The basic step to be ahead of this is using weather apps that send alerts and give daily forecasts.
You could also research about threats for your destinations and the necessary precautions/procedures in case of encountering one. For clothing, practice ‘Function over Fashion’ and dress in layers to adjust to room temperatures when inside buildings.
Driving in the States
The US has a big driving culture and students tend to buy cars for themselves for the commute. It’s advisable to apply for a local license as the DMV can guide you about the local terrain and traffic laws. Always carry car registration, insurance and a copy of your visa/passport in you r glove compartment. Always keep a spare shovel, torch and blanket in the trunk of your car.
Interacting with the US Police
The authorities in the US observe safety over cultural sensitivity so it is natural to feel nervous. It is advisable to announce your movements to the authorities and not to panic. Campus Police hold seminars for these interactions for foreign students to get attuned to it. On a side note: Don’t pet police canines as they aren’t friendly and have a different form of training.
Campus Support Systems
For any emergency on campus, it is better to call Campus Police before dialing 911 as you can get help faster from them. There are other systems offered by universities like International Student Service, International Health Service, and Counseling Service etc.
So pack those fears away along with your wardrobe for the upcoming semester to start off this new and exciting chapter in your life.