With the demand for international education being highest in India, around 80,000 students seek admissions to institutions in the United States every year.
As students and families worry about safety of students living abroad, Prarthna Tiga and Pallavi Sengupta discover that US universities have stepped up security measures.
This year, admission counsellors and Indian student associations are being bombarded with questions related to student safety measures taken by universities.
Representatives of universities and student associations are in turn reassuring students, and their families that universities have indeed raised their vigil in a bid to make international students feel safe and secure in the US.
"Foolproof security measures add up to the ranking of a particular university these days," says Mitra Kapardi, manager of Princeton Review, Hyderabad, adding, "Universities in the US and the UK have stepped up their surveillance systems with hi-tech biometric gadgets and electronic devices that monitor the student activities 24x7.
Universities in the US and UK have also tied up with the police department to respond promptly to any emergency."
On Wednesday, counselors and representatives of the Concordia University took pains to reassure students in Hyderabad that the University has implemented safety measures to keep miscreants at bay.
Asked if the recent attacks on Indian students had affected their admissions, Darlene Khalsa, director of International Student Programming claims, "Our admissions have been quite stable because we have implemented some of the best safety measures in the US. Concordia University is considered to be the third safest university in the USA."
Safety measures at the university include 200 video surveillance cameras, integrated campus wise intercom system, privacy laws that secure the identity of individuals, circulation of emergency procedure booklets and police patrolling. She also mentioned that alcohol, drugs and weapons are strictly prohibited on campus.
Student associations abroad have also had to address similar concerns. Traditionally they have dealt with queries related to airport reception, arrival and accommodation, housing search and funding patterns. They sometimes also organise house warming and extra-curricular cultural and sporting activities for freshers.
However, this year they are also addressing security queries through mails and online groups to dispel fears and anxieties of families from India.
Some of them rely on the track record of the city they live in to reassure applicants. "Indian students feel quite safe around Columbia and New York city due to excellent security patrols here. So far we have not seen any racial clash in Columbia University," says Anshul Kundaje, co-founder and vice president of Indian Students Association Columbia (ISAC).
Incidentally his University has arranged for a private security car for pick ups and drops to desired locations after hours, to ensure the safety of students on its campus.
"Indian students' associations play an essential role in curbing unwelcome situations; they function in a very organised manner, meeting up students and encouraging them to open up concerning any problems they face on campus, and then reporting it to the larger body of the international students desk in that particular university," says Kapardi.
People advise that while universities and associations do their part in securing the lives of international students, the government and individuals related to the student also need to exercise some responsibility.
It is of note for all international students who land in US to attend the student orientation programme and interactive sessions and take all advice given there seriously. Students are given detailed instructions regarding the safety of their belongings, baggage and personal safety. So students should know the dos and do not on campus.
The university can only provide support against external agents. It has a case of better safe than sorry, they counsel.