Your university campus and city might at first seem like an easy place for staying safe, and for the most part it will be, as the vast majority of your fellow students as well as the locals you meet will be very kind-hearted and good natured. Sadly, though, there isn’t really any place in the world that doesn’t have a few rotten eggs.
Students can be targeted by petty criminals who rightly assume that they usually have a smart phone, laptop, and other pricey electronic equipment on them to make off with for a quick buck. It is estimated that at least a third of students become victims of petty crime, but many of these incidents can be prevented by following a few well known safety tips. Better to be staying safe than to be sorry!
We have compiled some tips with the help of our student staff to help you with staying safe:
Avoid walking alone at night
While walking around the campus or back home at night, it is always a smart and safe idea to have a friend with you if possible. People in groups are less likely to be targeted by criminals than those found walking alone. In many larger cities worldwide, the line between the right side of town and the wrong side of town can be wafer thin. Remember; your safety always comes first, so don’t put yourself into any risky situations.
If you find yourself on your own, here are some tips on staying safe if you are feeling uncomfortable:
- Know exactly how you will get home. Plan ahead, particularly if you’re going to a part of town you don’t know very well. You may not want to end up walking down a dark road, staring at a map on your phone, because it is the fastest way of targeting yourself as someone who doesn’t know where they are. It can also be a beacon of light signifying that you are someone with something worth stealing!
- A personal safety alarm or whistle is handy to have on you if you don’t feel confident about walking around at night. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, a loud noise will often scare them away if they have bad intentions.
- Keep your valuables hidden. Cover up expensive looking jewellery, mobile phones, handbags, wallets, cash and cards.
- Stick to well-lit and busy streets, main roads and footpaths. Avoid badly lit areas, parks, alleyways, underpasses and car parks if possible.
- Stay alert. Don’t walk home while distracted by talking on your phone, texting or listening to music.
- Keep an eye open for any reason to take a detour. For example, try to avoid a group of loitering individuals in a suspicious location.
- Make sure that your mobile phone is charged and has call credit in case you might need it.
If you are ever involved in sexual harassment, violence or if you are robbed, report it to the police immediately and contact your university if it happens on campus grounds.
Make sure you know who you’re with
Some campuses may allow non-students to enter their student events. Most of these local guests are harmless, but some of them might be looking out for vulnerable (and most likely intoxicated) students. Make sure you know the people around you very well. It is nice to get to know new people, but don’t put yourself in a vulnerable situation with someone that you do not know very well yet or that you do not trust. Don’t leave an event by yourself with a stranger.
Keep someone informed about where you are
Inform someone, such as a friend, family member or roommate whenever you are heading out. Let them know your location and when you expect to get back home. Checking in via a text message or phone call is recommended. If you live outside the campus area but have stayed out late with your friends, let them know you have made it home soon after you arrive so that they know you made it home ok. You might even want to consider using friend-tracking apps such as Find My Friends which can allow your friends or family to locate you based on your GPS location if they haven’t heard from you in a while.
Keep all local emergency numbers handy
Learn and keep all local emergency numbers handy in your phone, and keep a back-up list in your wallet so that you know who to call in case you are in any trouble or if your wallet or phone gets lost or stolen. It is also wise to memorise the number of the campus security and save it in your phone for non-police required situations, such as rowdy neighbours.
Safe use of taxi’s and public transport
Whenever you are out, stay close to people you know, and leave whenever they do. If they are not going in the same direction as you are, consider getting a taxi as a way of staying safe. You might not want to spend the money at the time, but it’s a cheap insurance compared to what may happen if you are wandering down the wrong street at night.
Unlicensed cabs can often lurk outside of nightclubs to pick people up. Don’t take any unlicensed taxi rides! Save the phone number of a registered taxi company to call when needed, or know the nearest location of an official taxi stand. If you choose to use public transportation to get home, sit near the driver on a bus or tram, or in a train car or metro which is already well occupied.
Keep the money you need to get home safely after a night out separated from your wallet and the rest of your money. That way you won’t accidentally spend it or lose it to wallet theft.
Wearing a coat, or at least a light jacket is super important for staying safe during cold nights out. Check the weather before you go and have enough clothes with you. Getting ill is a lot more likely than you think if you under-dress! Most nightclubs have cloakrooms, and a few dollars is a small price to pay compared to getting ill and needing to visit a Doctor.
Also, consider the local culture and the local way of dressing when you are planning your outfit. Dressing up and standing out are a great way to feel good about yourself, but standing out too much may draw unwanted attention.
In most places around the world, drinking alcohol is a part of the average student life. To ensure you are staying safe while having a few drinks with friends, follow these tips:
- Eat something before you go out for drinks. The effects of alcohol will hit you harder if your body is not reinforced with the vitamins and minerals it needs. In other words, if you eat a balanced meal beforehand you are less likely to get dangerously drunk and less likely to wake up with, what feels like, a circus band banging drums inside your head!
- Stay with a group of friends and with people you know you can trust while going out for drinks.
- While drinking alcoholic beverages, drink water regularly in between to rehydrate yourself.
- Don’t feel the need to have alcohol every time you go out. You shouldn’t ever feel pressured by others to drink if you don’t want to.
- Never accept any drinks from strangers or someone you don’t trust, and keep an eye on your drinks. If you do accidentally leave your drink unattended, forget about it and go buy a new one. If you start to feel ill, or too drunk when you know you shouldn’t be, your drink could have been spiked with drugs. In this case, tell someone you trust and get to a safe place right away.
- In case you’re drinking more than a few, be careful that you won’t get into any vulnerable situations. Stay with your friends, or at least make sure they know where you are at all times. Remember to drink water to sober yourself up when needed. When in doubt, ask yourself: “Do I really want to be more drunk than I already am?”
- Learn when to walk away. There can be some times when tensions are high and conflict seems inevitable. Being able to walk away from these situations and not get involved in arguments will save you a lot of trouble. If someone is still bothering or threatening you after you have walked away from an altercation, grab a security guard and tell them that you feel uncomfortable.
- Always walk home with a crowd if you can, or catch an official taxi to take you home. If you recognise other students who also live near you waiting at a taxi stand, don’t be too shy to ask if they want to share a taxi with you.
- Have your keys ready in your hand before reaching your front door. This way you can make sure to get yourself into your building quickly. Check that no one follows you inside. Make sure you lock the door behind you as well!
Always lock your door
Many student houses are often targeted by burglary criminals. Ensure that the main door to your room, hall or apartment is always properly locked to keep away trespassers and intruders. Don’t hesitate to keep your private rooms’ door locked, even if you know you will be away for only a couple of minutes. Don’t provide intruders any opportunity to get inside your building or room. One way of staying safe is to keep your windows locked as well, especially if your room is anywhere near ground level.
Don’t leave cash or anything expensive lying around your room or apartment. Keep your valuables out of sight, and whenever possible in a secure place. Try also not to leave anything valuable visible through the windows of your room. Consider using a secure storage for expensive items whenever you are leaving the house for longer periods of time.
Never let strangers into your hallways or apartment building. It is always better to be staying safe than to be sorry. If you don’t know the person who wants to come inside, it never hurts to call and check if your roommate or friend is expecting something to be delivered or has invited somebody to drop by. Keep your own bedroom door locked, even whenever you are just running out for a few minutes, and especially if your roommates are having a party. Don’t make it easy for a stranger to find their way into your room or a potential thief to help themselves to your possessions!
If possible, it is always a good idea to have an extra set of keys kept away in a safe location or given to a trustable friend or family member. This ensures you are not accidentally locked outside of your home. If you have a tendency to lose your keys often, reduce the risk of losing them by getting a chain or clip so you can attach them to your trousers, belt, purse or handbag.
Lock your car or bicycle
If you have a car or bicycle, always keep it locked whenever you leave it, even if it is just for a few minutes. Don’t leave the keys inside the car and keep the engine running to run out to get something, or don’t leave a bike unlocked to run quickly into a shop. Think about where you parked your bike or car – is it a safe spot? Stealing from vehicles and the stealing of bikes is a major problem, so don’t leave anything valuable inside your car or bike and don’t leave them unlocked.
Look after your belongings
Many students may not realise that it is not safe to leave their belongings unattended in public areas such as a library, cafeteria, or in study rooms. Ask a friend or someone trustworthy to watch over your belongings until you return from wherever you are going. If no one’s around to keep an eye on them, take them with you! Mark your study materials with your name in case you accidentally leave them somewhere.
Mobile phone, tablet and laptop security
Mobile phones are by far the item most stolen from students. It’s best to keep your mobile phone with you in a secure place such as in your bag, handbag or in your pocket than to leave it lying around on a table. Avoid using your phone in isolated places such as in parks in the evening.
Laptops and tablets can also tend to be stolen during studies. If you have any sensitive information (such as your bank and identity details) exam notes, project files or assignments stored in your laptop, a theft can be a disaster. Carry your laptop or tablet hidden inside a bag. Use electronic locking codes and tracking devices if available for your device. Various anti-theft and tracking softwares, such as Find My Mac, can be useful in case your laptop or tablet suddenly goes missing.
Don’t store any usernames and passwords on your laptop or cellphone – if they get lost or stolen, your identity and personal information are at risk!
Don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket or your purse open while you are around busy streets and on public transport. To practice staying safe if your wallet is loaded with money (which it should almost never be), try to be discrete when you open it to avoid unwanted attention. If you lose your credit card or suspect that it has been stolen, contact the bank or credit card provider immediately to avoid theft.
You should always destroy old credit cards by cutting through the chip and magnetic strip even if they have been deactivated. It is also important to carefully destroy any papers carrying bank or credit card details.
Check out ATM’s before withdrawing money to see if they appear to be tampered with. Devices can be added to the card slot to scan your card and steal money from it. Always block your pin code when putting it into an ATM or card machine.
Insurance for your health, your home, your car and your belongings is one of the best ways of staying safe during your studies! Insurance for students is usually very cheap. Paying a small premium for insurance can go a long way if you find yourself in a situation that you would otherwise not be able to afford! Healthcare costs can be very steep in some countries, so health insurance is crucial in order to afford the care you need while you study.
Over half of all students who fall prey to petty theft or burglary are not insured. Get yourself a strong insurance policy which also has the possibility to add theft coverage to all of your valuable belongings.
Remember to report any incidents of theft to the police right away since you will need the crime reference number to make an insurance claim most of the time.
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Safety at home
Accidents can happen even in the place where you feel you are the most safe, so here are some simple precautions you can follow to ensure that you are staying safe at home:
- Check that you have working smoke alarms and test them regularly.
- In case of an emergency, keep all possible exits clear in your room.
- For your building, know all fire exit routes, procedures, and where any fire-fighting equipment is located.
- Be careful while cooking. More than half of all fires start in a kitchen.
- Do not smoke indoors. Stub cigarettes out properly and dispose of them carefully.
- Close your windows and lock your doors at night.
- Switch off any electrical appliances whenever you are not using them.
- Keep your valuables out of sight.
- Don’t keep any spare keys hidden in an obvious place. Give them instead to a trustable friend or family member.
Although most of these tips might seem like common sense, many students often forget them during the hustle and bustle of daily campus life. Keep them in mind to ensure that you keep yourself and your belongings safe while you study.
Not sure how safe the university campus and city you want to go to is? Check out its’ security rating on its’ Study Advisory profile! This rating is composed entirely from the student point of view, so you can always trust that it is correct!
From all of us here at Study Advisory, we hope you have many enjoyable and safe experiences at your university!
Check out more of our tips and tricks for your studies!