Starting university is an exciting time! For many it marks a huge step towards becoming a fully independent adult. Maybe you can't wait to start your course in your chosen subject, or you are looking forward to making new and lasting friendships with like minded people. Or perhaps it's the draw of the infamous university social scene that has you raring to go. It can also be a daunting time. It is perfectly normal to feel anxious about making new friends or starting your course and to have concerns about feeling homesick and lonely. However you feel about the adventure of university, take some time to ensure that you feel confident about your personal safety. Some tips are included for you below.
And remember, taking responsibility for your safety does not mean missing out on all the fun. University is an experience full of opportunities, make the most of it and have fun!
A new city
Before you move to your new city take some time to get to know it. Research your city and neighbourhood online, especially to discover any areas you may not want to visit at specific times.
Walk around your neighbourhood to get a better feel for its quirks.
Research routes that you will use regularly (e.g. to lectures or popular social spots), and know your ‘safe points’ along that route.
Ask around, ask other students, lecturers, university staff if there are places that should be avoided.
Looking at local crime rates can give you an idea of what types of crimes are most common and whether crime is increasing or decreasing year on year.
Know your resources. Who should you contact if you or a friend needs help? Where should you go? Locate resources such as the campus health centre, university emergency service / security service.
Program the campus security/emergency number into your mobile for easy access.
Make others earn your trust. A university environment can foster a false sense of security. They may feel like fast friends, but give people time earn your trust before relying on them.
Do not share personal details on social media including what university halls you live in, your class schedule and other information that could let a criminal know either where to find you or when you may not be home.
Insure your possessions and mark your property with a UV pen.
If you see anything suspicious, report it to your campus security or police.
Halls of residence
When you leave your room in halls, always lock the door, and shut the window, even if you are only popping next door for a minute.
Think about the risks before inviting someone you’ve just met into your room.
Never let anyone into your block by holding a door open unless you know them or have checked their ID.
Even if the person is a best friend, never loan out your key or student ID.
Never prop open doors for friends or visitors. If you have a guest visiting, the best way to handle the situation is to follow the campus's guidelines for signing in visitors.
Before moving to an area, take a weekend and check it out with a friend or parent. Learn where the locals like to hang out and where all the safest areas are. It is best to scout your new home before moving there, especially if you are moving alone.
When choosing where to stay, make sure that it’s secure and that the area feels safe. It’s a good idea to visit it at night as well as during the day.
·Make sure you meet all your prospective flat mates and trust your instincts when deciding whether to move in.
Make sure your house is secure. Ensure outside doors all have working and adequate locks. Fit any vulnerable downstairs windows with key-operated locks.
Keep valuables out of sight and in a secure place. Consider secure storage for expensive items if you're leaving these during the holidays.
Try not to leave keys in a place where they can be seen from outside your home.
Avoid attaching your name or address to keys. If they were lost or stolen, they could make a burglar’s job very easy.
Have your keys ready when you approach your home, so you don’t have to fumble in bags or pockets for them on your doorstep.
Enjoying a night out
Attend parties with friends you can trust. Agree to ‘look out’ for one another. Travel back together, or “check in” when you each arrive home safely.
Use a WhatsApp or other messaging group with your housemates / university friends to make it easy to stay in touch with one another should you get split up when out.
Plan ahead. Make sure someone knows where you are going, who you are meeting and when you expect to return.
Know how you are going to get home again.
Alcohol can seriously affect your ability to make safe judgements.
The most common date rape drug is alcohol, so keep an eye on your drinks so that neither drugs nor extra alcohol are added.
If you start to feel unwell seek assistance from venue staff.
Dates are safer and easier to leave quickly if they are in a public place.
At night stick to busy streets and near other people. Avoid poorly lit areas, deserted parks, or quiet alleyways and walk facing oncoming traffic to avoid kerb crawlers.
It’s okay to lie. If you want to exit a situation immediately and are concerned about frightening or upsetting someone, it’s okay to lie. You are never obligated to remain in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, pressured, or threatened. You can also lie to help a friend leave a situation that you think may be dangerous. Some excuses you could use are needing to take care of another friend or family member, an urgent phone call, not feeling well, and having to be somewhere else by a certain time.
Day to day life
Stay Alert! Avoid chatting on your mobile phone or listening to music on your headphones, as this will distract you from your surroundings and prevent you from hearing any potential danger signs.
You may often be laden with books and bags but always try to keep one hand free and walk confidently and purposefully.
If you are planning to use public transport, always check the times of the last train, tube, or buses.
If a bus is empty or it is after dark, it is safer to stay on the lower deck and sit near the driver or conductor. On trains or on the underground, try to sit with other people and avoid empty carriages. If you feel uneasy, don’t be afraid to move to another seat or carriage.
Always carry the telephone number of a trusted, licensed taxi or minicab company with you or have a suitable booking app available on your phone.
Never take an unlicensed minicab, as these are unchecked, uninsured and can potentially be very dangerous.
Load emergency numbers and emergency contacts, like your parents or guardians, into your phone. Adding the campus emergency line is a good idea, too.
Try to look confident and sure of yourself. Even if you are lost, or unfamiliar with which bus stop you need to take, do your best to appear knowledgeable and savvy.
And finally, always trust your instincts - remove yourself from any situation that makes you feel uncomfortable.