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When you are at university, it is an exciting time. For many, it is also the first taste of freedom and the beginning of life outside of your comfort zone. With so many new people, a new routine and a new location to navigate (often whilst under the influence), it can be overwhelming and your personal safety might be the last thing on your mind.
But it is also during this time that you are most vulnerable of becoming a victim of crime. With this in mind, we have compiled five simple tips on how you can stay safe while studying away from home.
Stay with Friends
One staple of any student’s routine will be the social aspect. When you’re going for a night out with new friends, be sure to stick together. What you should avoid is getting separated from them, although when several vodkas are likely to be involved, this may not always go to plan.
Ensure you have each other’s phone numbers saved and that your phones are fully charged before going out at night. Set up a Whatsapp group so you can easily communicate with the whole group and allocate a location – for example, the entrance - and a time to meet in the event that you do become separated. If you do get left behind by accident, ensure you have the Uber or a local taxi app on your phone with enough credit to get a taxi back to your dorm or off-campus housing.
Avoid Using ATMs at Night
Whilst most ATMs are safe to use, using them in the evening is riskier than during the daytime. Most thieves are opportunistic and they strike when they are least likely to be seen or recognised.
Don’t play into their hands. Use an on-campus ATM or those located inside the bank or at least take a couple of friends with you to keep watch, if you are desperate. It is also a good idea to plan ahead and ensure you have enough cash before you go out at night.
Avoid carrying too much money or withdrawing the maximum each time. Just withdraw the amount that you need that day to reduce the risk of losing a large sum if you were targeted by a mugger. Apps like Apple Pay or using the contactless function on your bank card are a good option to reduce how much cash you require. Keep the number of your bank stored in your phone so you can report a lost or stolen bank card as soon as possible.
Be Friendly with the Security Staff
It never hurts to smile and be personable with the people who stand guard at the entrance of the university and help to keep everyone safe. They are there to do their job and wish to do it well.
Establishing a relationship with staff and security may come in handy if you do have a problem on or near campus or at the clubs and bars you visit regularly. Should you be followed or harassed, you can report it to the staff; if you have taken time to get to know them, they will recognise and remember you and will take the report more seriously.
Whilst you may not have needed insurance previously – especially if you lived at home with your parents, that is no longer the case. Get insured to cover the possessions that you’ll either carry with you (like your smartphone), jewellery and for items kept at your dorm or off-campus accommodation (like your laptop, TV, course books and other personal items).
Shop around for the best quote. Using an insurance broker can work out cheaper than getting a single quote from one insurer and automatically going with that. Some insurers may offer a student discount and some banks may offer insurance when you take an account or credit card with them.
Losing awareness of your surroundings makes you an easy target for an attack. Staring at your smartphone as you walk about or whilst taking public transport, or being zoned out with ACDC in both ears, leaves you vulnerable. You will be unaware of those walking behind you or mopeds rushing by the curb-side, for example.
Similarly, if you are distracted by the latest social media notifications or a reminder from your classmate of the impending deadline for your next assignment, it is easy to miss a suspicious-looking person getting within arm’s reach of your phone until it is too late.
Staying safe at university is about being vigilant, avoiding digital distractions and about keeping your friends close and connected. By following a few sensible precautions, you can ensure that your experience at university is positive and you won’t experience setbacks that might affect your studies or well-being.
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