What are the absolutely essential things that students planning to study abroad ensure before landing there? Check out the university, faculty and most importantly the course they are going for. They also look for accommodation.
Great, but how many actually think about the safety issues that they may have to encounter once there. A lot many don’t really plan for the untoward incidents that can happen to them once they are on a foreign land; some of them do plan, but would it be enough?
The rules of the game are pretty simple. You are your own saviour in times of emergency, so plan your stay just like you would plan your stay alone in your own country.
Safety tips for international students living on-campus & off-campus
Here are some tips to keep safe while you are studying abroad.
1. Beware of scamsters
There have been way too many incidents involving international students wherein they lost money thanks to fraudsters.
Stanford University had to issue an official statement cautioning international students and scholars to beware of calls from people claiming to be immigration officials asking for money to be paid.
The story goes that they’d say there is some problem with your documents or immigration status for which you need to pay a fine. Some students end up paying the amount as they assume the threat of getting their visa cancelled or being deported, real.
Universities around the world and concerned departments in the administration have had to issue similar notifications. The UK Council for International Student Affairs, for instance, advises students to report the incident to international student adviser. You must note that government officials never call/email/text asking you to pay money.
Similarly, there would be people approaching you to entice you with some scholarship scheme, or offer study loans for which they want you to pay some amount beforehand. Definitely avoidable.
2. Be watchful of your routes
Most international universities will have their own list of safety measures that they would like their students, especially international students, to follow. Going through that would be the right thing to do.
Then, it is also a good idea to scan the routes you would take to reach your class or the campus, in addition to parking lots, facilities, walkways, and the like.
Look for emergency phone booth location, if the area is well-lit and patrolled. Try taking a shuttle service at night, which is much safer.
3. Have a ‘buddy’
When life on-campus gets too boring, you may want to venture out of the school to explore the city, make sure your friends or roommate have an idea where you are headed to and with whom. You can call it the ‘buddy’ system.
Don’t go trotting alone with no one having any clue of your whereabouts. You never know what emergency can come knocking. The same rule applies if you stay in some university approved residential accommodation outside the campus.
4. Review the place before you visit
An exciting part of staying outside the university premises is the time to see so many things beyond school, students and lecturers…you know enjoy a cuppa coffee in the park, or visit galleries, museums, forts, or the city aquarium for that matter!
The important thing to remember is to always travel with a friend at night. If it is a group, nothing like it. And as for places that you may want to visit, try and ask around for the place and the neighbourhood.
You will get a lot of information online from reviews of the place that you wish to visit be it a bar, restaurant or some cultural event. If there are some bad or not so good reviews with regard to safety issues, it is better to look for some other option.
5. Take care of your papers
Living off campus means you have to travel within the city, and are mostly on your own. Carrying self defence equipment like a pepper spray makes sense then, especially at night. It makes more sense for women, but hey even boys can be mugged, right! Some prefer to carry it in the hand, with the nozzle uncovered. When walking alone on a deserted stretch, keep watching over your shoulder.
Whether travelling alone or in a group, it is advisable to keep your belongings close to you, especially wallet, ID card, passport and other sensitive things (speaking of which, keep several copies of your important documents, not with the originals for sure).
Even when in a crowded market, you may end up losing your stuff if you aren’t careful. Keep important things zipped up and attached to your body.
When going out shopping to flea markets, try and accompany a friend or a local who can help you out if the shopkeepers try and fleece you taking advantage of the fact that you are a foreigner and don’t know the local language.
This will also help when taking taxi rides and getting the right deal for sightseeing. Again, carry the phone numbers and addresses of all the places you plan to go to, just in case you lose the route. Speaking of which, carrying map of the city you visit will be a good idea, if the GPS on your phone refuses to work at the crucial time.
6. Get renter’s insurance
Living outside the campus means going an extra mile to ensure your own safety. Get feedback on apartment or locality you choose to live in from other students who live there or know somebody who lives there.
Meet the neighbours so as to get the community bond going on. Remember, they’d be your first line of guard when living alone. Have friends whom you can invite over so that you don’t feel lonely.
After you move in, do not let people into your apartment if you are not sure of them. invest in a good smoke detector if the building doesn’t already have one. Learn how to maintain and use fire extinguishers. Have emergency numbers with you at all times.
Also get a good alarm system which will work in case of a break-in. Find out if renter’s insurance works in your case. If it does, then get your belongings insured against burglary, fire and other such factors.
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 | Image credit: Lonestar.edu