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Sunday, November 16, 2008

How to ensure safer stay abroad ?

International safety regulations



   India is the largest exporter of students to the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Singapore and other developed countries. Although most students go for graduate studies (Masters levels and postgraduate), an increasing number of 18 and 19-year-olds are finding exciting educational opportunities overseas. 


   All students, whether going for studies at the undergraduate or graduate level, and their families need to be aware of the safety and security regulations in the countries the students are going to. The deaths of international students (for instance, one professor of Indian origin was shot in the Virginia Tech incident) due to violence last year on US and Canadian campuses have alarmed students across the globe. Although the UK does not have as serious a history of gunrelated violence, the underground subway bombings have roused the authorities to the threat, including to international students. Europe, Australia, Singapore are comparatively less in the spotlight for this issue. 


   How serious is the threat to the personal safety of international students? What steps can they take to minimise such risks? These are questions that all students should ask themselves and their universities. 


   The US presidential candidates have tried to grapple with several contentious issues. Gun control is one of the divisive issues in the US. On June 25, 2008, the US Supreme Court invalidated a District of Columbia handgun ban. This has led to widespread rejoicing by the pro-gun lobbyists and dismay for those against it. While John McCain has welcomed it, Obama has tried to straddle the middle ground by saying he favours an individual's right to bear firearms and a government's right to regulate them. 


   Whatever the debate, the ground reality is that unfortunately, there is crime in the developed countries, as there is everywhere, but as an international student, it is better to be safe than sorry. The following tips should help dispel some of the fears and ensure a safer stay: 
• Find out where your nearest Indian embassy is and send them a short letter, by email, giving them your details - school you're enrolled in, passport number, contact details etc. 
• Remember the old adage - 'When in Rome, act as the Romans.' Try and blend in, as far as clothes and appearance are concerned. Wear the standard clothes that all young students wear - typically jeans and shirts. Keep your ethnic clothing only for special occasions. 
• There's safety in numbers - Try and be with other students as much as possible, at least when you first go to another country. 
• Several educational campuses abroad abut residential and downtown locations, some of which are safe, some not so safe. Ask for advice at the international student office about which areas to avoid. 
• Make sure you familiarise yourself with the layout of your campus — walk around, explore and figure out where the emergency services are and how to use them. 
• Indians are known to wear real gold and precious jewellery. Please leave your valuable jewellery in India when you go to abroad for the first time. 
• Don't carry too much cash with you — use credit or debit cards for all transactions. 
• Don't leave your cash, wallets and credit cards out in the open, even in your own room. It's easy to get lulled into a sense of security — but it's in your own interest not to let your guard down. 
• When you leave your room, apartment or car, make sure you close all windows and lock the doors securely. Most campus buildings, dorms and apartment buildings have automatic doors that require you to swipe your identity card before gaining access. Make sure nobody else who is not properly authorised gets in along with you as you open the doors. 
• Similarly, ensure nobody goes into secure buildings when you come out of a secure building, and the doors are still open a few seconds after you have exited. 
• If you're working late or after sundown at the lab or library ask for an escort service — most international campuses have one. 
• Keep your ID cards, passport, credit/debit cards and other sensitive material very secure. Expensive items such as laptops, cameras, and watches should be put away carefully. 
• Be wary of strangers who befriend you. Until you have absolute and confirmed information about who these strangers are and what motives they have, it is better to be careful. Beware of unknown people asking you for a ride, and don't be taken in by appearances. 
• Stay focused on your mission — beware of temptations, distractions and addictions such as alcohol, substance abuse and gaming. 
• In the unfortunate event of you being accosted, don't try to be heroic — your safety should be uppermost in your mind. Hand over what the thief asks for as coolly as you can. Be observant and try and remember details about the person robbing you. (I'm sorry, with this last bit, I feel like the manual on flight safety aboard airplanes! All pretty useless if your life is in danger, and your wits are all you have). 
• Don’t get paranoid reading this — it's not so bad, really, and taking these precautions will go far towards making your educational experience worry-free and enjoyable




Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


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