Keeping safe as a foreign student in the UK
There is nothing wrong with feeling cautious about your surroundings as a foreign student in the UK. Many British students feel unsure of themselves when living away from their family home too, and you will find especially at the start of each new university year, that you are given lots of advice, talks and leaflets about how to protect yourself around campus and when walking home at night.
Because the British academic year starts in September, the days get shorter quite quickly as the autumn season begins, and just a month to six weeks later it can be dark even before your last lecture of the day is over.
If you also take evening classes or have a part-time job in the evenings – or if you go out to enjoy the nightlife on campus – you are likely to be walking home in the dark, so remember to put safety first.
If you are out after dark, it’s important to make sure you are visible. Not all public streets in the UK are well lit, and if you go out wearing dark clothing from head to toe, you might not be easy to see in the night.
You can get reflective strips to attach to your clothing, and these are a good option if you like to go running, jogging or cycling, or for long recreational walks in the evenings, but for general getting around on foot, a light-coloured jacket is a good investment.
Just one item of brightly coloured clothing can help you to be seen by drivers, so if you have a dark jacket you love too much to replace, consider a light scarf or a brightly coloured hat – you can always take it off when you get to where you are going, but it could stop a car from hitting you as you cross the road.
Be sensible about the amount of money you carry with you. It is unlikely that you will need hundreds of pounds for a normal day, and if you open a UK current account for international students, you should be able to get extra cash from an ATM if you spend everything in your pocket.
Keep cash in more than one pocket, so if anybody steals it from you, you have some emergency money hidden in an inside pocket to get you home – and remember to keep about £5 in coins too, in case you ever need to catch a bus and pay the exact fare.
Stay phone safe
Your mobile phone from back home should work in the UK unless you are from Japan or some countries in the Americas, but again, if you’re out and about after dark, you should be extra careful about using it and how you hold it.
If you do need to make a call, hold your phone firmly and be alert for anyone walking unusually close to you, or if you hear a bicycle approaching quickly from behind – it takes only a moment to snatch a phone from your hand.
Make sure you have essential contacts from your phone’s address book written down somewhere in case you lose your handset, and know any details you need to get your handset locked by the network provider if it is lost or stolen.
Finally, not all crime against international students – or students in general – happens at night, so be equally alert in the daytime, as a university campus can unfortunately attract certain kinds of criminal.
Pickpockets are one to watch out for, especially at crowded events like the Freshers Fair, so again if you can keep your cash and especially your debit card in an inside pocket, securely zipped closed, it’s an extra layer of protection against anyone dipping into your pocket and taking it.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is to put all of their cash, debit cards and ID in a single purse or wallet – if you lose this and don’t have any kind of emergency money or a secondary account elsewhere, you could be in big trouble, especially as a foreigner with no ID.
You might want to keep an Arro Personal Account open either as an emergency backup if you lose your main bank card, or even to use as your primary account for everyday spending and leisure time activities, so that your day-to-day debit card does not give anyone access to the full balance of your bank account.