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Wherever you are in the world, it is always important to remember your health, safety, and security. These tips are a starting point, but researching security and safety issues before you leave means you’ll be better prepared and more confident upon arrival.
For any fire, crime or safety/health emergency, the number to call in the US is 911. Dispatchers can deploy a fire truck, policeman or ambulance. For non-emergency medical issues, consider visiting your campus health clinic first as a more cost-effective alternative to a trip to the emergency room (ER), what we could call accident and emergency (A+E).
If you are in a car accident, do not leave the scene until the police have arrived. Even if no one is hurt, you must wait until the police have arrived and filed a report on the accident.
As you may know, many US university campuses are isolated from the city centre, creating a vibrant campus life. However, the high volume of young (and sometimes naïve) people in one area can make campuses a target for crime. Many universities offer a free escort service, and nearly all US campuses have a university security staff in addition to services provided by the local police to ensure a safe campus environment. It’s also a good idea to store the non-emergency number of your university’s police department, or the local police department, in your phone. You’ll learn more about security and safety at your orientation.
Many campuses are also integrated into major cities, so always exercise caution when walking around at night. As these schools aren’t isolated, anyone can walk through them, so get to know your way around.
Many universities also have emergency call boxes located around campus that have direct access to police emergency lines. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Before you can get to know other cities on your travels around the country, it is important to get to know the surroundings in which you will be living and studying first. While some universities may offer courses on the state/area you are studying in, a majority of international students (and even some Americans) never fully explore the area in which they are based. Take some time to read online about where you will be as this may unearth some hidden gems to the town/city.
Walk the streets and get a feel for the place, and take note of some of its architecture, local history and nature. While exploring the area and discovering new places is quite exciting, it is important to remember to stay safe and alert and discuss the area with some American/local friends beforehand to know the area(s) to avoid/be wary of. Not all parts of a city may be as safe and friendly as your campus - be sure to note this and preferably explore with a friend or group of friends rather than alone. America is a friendly, welcoming place, but no matter where you are, be smart and be safe.
When travelling outside your local area to explore other parts of the country, it is also worthwhile to research these areas on the internet or ask friends/advisors for information on what to see, where to go and where to avoid. If you have access to a printer, it may also be beneficial to print out some maps/directions of wherever you are staying (hostel/hotel/family) and the key attractions/places you are hoping to visit. You may also want to print out transportation timetables/maps in order to be fully prepared and maximise the amount of time you have when travelling.
It is important to know how to contact the nearest UK consulate or embassy in case you lose your passport (which you should make photocopies of and keep in a safe place). Please note that you should not carry your passport with you on a daily basis. Store it in a safe place where you will be able to find it. You should only carry your passport when travelling in the US or even take a photocopy for proof of identity/reasoning for your presence in the US!
You can also subscribe for email updates from the embassy concerning safety issues. For more information and safety tips go to the British Embassy’s website.