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Many of my friends are worried about the recent killings of Indian students in the US. However, we stick together and keep company with only trustworthy people. Furthermore, we do not roam around in deserted places," says Sanket, a student at the University of Texas at Austin. He has lived in Austin for three years now and like many other foreign students across America, is concerned about his safety.
With the recent violent incidents, parents and students across India are questioning the safety of studying in the United States. With around 100,000 Indian students studying in the US alone, safety is a primary and justified concern. The last few incidents have brought to light the dark side of studying abroad.
"We do not believe that Indian students are being targeted in particular. University campuses are very safe places and we have ample campus security officers patrolling the areas. Incidents do occur on college campuses all over the world and we do not believe that US campuses are any different from Indian campuses when safety is concerned," says a university official from the University of Arizona.
Generally speaking, the US is a safe place for students to study. A few isolated incidents should not bias students' decisions to study in the US. Students should exercise caution and common sense while living in the United States. They should not invite strangers to their homes and should not venture to the ghetto areas of cities.
In today's times, Indians are viewed as 'rich targets' and most people know that Indians may even have a significant amount of jewelry at their homes. Hence, students should not flaunt their jewelry, new phones or wealth on university campuses. It's best to maintain a low profile and focus on the primary reason why you are in the US -- studying for your degree.
Most robberies and physical attacks are carried out by people you have previously met or known. Hence, choosing your friends carefully is important. Do not think that people from a particular race or community are more likely to rob or attack you. This is a common misconception. More importantly, do not let such incidents influence or bias you towards certain groups of people. Always have an open mind when you are studying abroad. This will enrich your experience.
Always keep in touch with your family back home or trustworthy friends you have made at your university. If you have even the slightest doubt or inclination that you are being followed, contact the university's security office and ask for assistance. Remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
If you are studying late at night at the university library, you can request a friend to come with you when you are going back to your dorm or apartment. Alternatively, you can even ask for an escort from the university security office. It's best not to venture alone in the night, especially in deserted areas.
Under no circumstances should you carry guns, knives or any weapons with you. This is against most university regulations and if caught, you will get into serious trouble. If you still feel unsafe, carry pepper spray. Pepper sprays are legal in most states and in the unfortunate event that you are attacked, you can use the pepper spray to hurt and distract the attacker, while you make your escape.
If all fails, and you are being forced to hand over a priced possession such as a cell phone or wallet, please use your common sense and give it away. No possession is more important than your life. And do not try to imitate Bollywood stunts and fight in such a situation. Running is always a better option.
Remember, statistics reveal that your chances of being attacked while studying in the US are very slim -- less than 0.001 per cent. However, it's best to be safe and prudent while living in a foreign country.
The author is a foreign education consultant and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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