In addition to knowing about campus security systems in place, students are advised to take the following steps to improve their own personal security.
- Lock the door of their dorm rooms or apartment, especially when not at home or asleep
- Keep money (credit cards, cash), travel documents (passport, I-20 form, and/or driver’s license), electronics, vehicles, and bicycles locked or in a secure place
- Not give their name, phone number, address, credit card number, or any identifying information to strangers
- Keep important phone numbers on hand, including the campus housing Resident Assistant (RA), Designated School Official (DSO), international student services office, and any other local friends who can help in an emergency
- If out late, after dark, walk with others and stay on well-lit streets or use a campus shuttle
- Take self-defense training class
- Carry a whistle to blow in case of an emergency
- For more guidelines on personal safety, check the Collegiate Parent website.
Cell Phones and Internet
Although Wi-Fi is common in the United States, including on university campuses, at local businesses, and in coffee shops, international students may choose to sign up for a phone plan to have a local U.S. phone number and also sign up for an internet plan if they live off campus.
As in other countries, phone plans in the United States can be either prepaid or monthly and come with a limited number of texts, number of minutes talking, and amount of data. Although international students may have a cell phone from their home country that is “unlocked” and will work on the U.S. network (GSM or CDMA), they also may choose to get a “free” new phone from a U.S. phone company in exchange for signing a contract with them for a certain period of time. It is worth finding companies with the best rates on international calling and an option to suspend the phone plan when outside the United States during school breaks.
In addition to free campus-wide WiFi, most universities have several computer rooms where students can use computers and printers and access the internet and licensed software programs for free. However, if students live off campus and want to access the internet from home, they might need to sign up for internet with a private service company that charges a monthly fee.
Driving and Transportation
In the United States, those who operate motorized vehicles must have a valid driver’s license. It is important for drivers to be familiar with each state’s driving regulations. Vehicle drivers and passengers are universally required to wear seatbelts. Texting while driving is illegal and many states require mobile devices to be in “hands-free” mode while driving. Driving while intoxicated is also illegal and there are severe penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol. Emergency vehicles, buses, and pedestrians at crosswalks must be given the right of way. Failure to yield to them can also have legal penalties. Compared to many countries, drivers in the United States do not use their horns as much. Although it is not illegal, excessive honking could anger other drivers and pedestrians. See the AAA website for more information on driving safely in the United States.
For students without vehicles, public or university transportation can be a good option. Especially in large cities, buses, shuttles, and trains around town and to the airport are accessible and affordable. Many transportation systems have special rates for students and sell discounted passes for an entire semester. On some university campuses shuttles are free of charge or included as part of the student fees.