Off to College
Credit: KB35 on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
Whether you are heading off to college for the first time or moving to a new neighborhood, there are a few key things that will help you feel safer in your new surroundings.
I had a couple of "close calls" during my college years - something I'll share in this article that might help you or someone you love. It's crucial to feel safe wherever you live. You'll sleep better, be healthier, and achieve your highest academic scores when you feel secure.
Now it's not all about the studying; I mean, you have to have fun. I always set aside Friday night for something social and completely absorbing (like going out to see a good movie with friends).

One of the most overlooked things

The apartment buzzer

Apartment Directory (detailed)
Credit: stevendamron on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Oh, did I learn the hard way

When I rented my first apartment in Toronto, the lobby had all the residents listed by name and it stated their apartment number. Not good. It's a safety issue, especially for females.

At another residence, they hooked the buzzer up to the phone. This time, my name wasn't listed in the lobby directory, but anyone could "buzz" my apartment in the middle of the night causing my phone to ring. I ended up taking my phone off the hook - which worried my family when they couldn't reach me.

So, my heartfelt advice is this: look for buzzers with random numeric codes (that can be changed, if need be). If apartments owners want to "list your name" on a directory, request that one of the following be inserted:

a) If you are female, either add another fictitious person to your listing (e.g. "Carol & Jim") or ask that "Mr." be put in front of your name (i.e. Mr. Carol).
b) Ask if simply "Occupied" could be the identifier.
c) Ensure that your exact apartment number NOT be listed beside your name.

Look for something like this

(Usually, the code can be changed too).

Dial Code
Credit: Helga's Lobster Stew on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Seinfeld - when Kramer dated Elaine's roommate

The pitfalls of dirty dishes, loud music & partial nudity:

Renting a room in a house?

This might give you piece of mind:

SVAT VIS300-7M2 Hands Free 2-Wire Color Video Intercom Surveillance System with 7" LCD Monitor and Outdoor Night Vision Security Camera & Bonus Electric Door Strike Remote Unlock Mechanism
Amazon Price: $399.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 10, 2016)
This system connects to the existing doorbell wiring. The night vision camera allows you to see a radius of 8 feet out and shuts off in the day automatically (to save energy). What impressed me most is the screen size. It's a 7" LCD color video monitor with a hands-free intercom surveillance system. You can even unlock your door from the indoor monitor. The wiring distance is 50 meters (164 feet).

The Forgetful Landlord

Not as rare as you'd think

I had the unfortunate dilemma with one lady I rented a room from. I think she may have been developing signs of Alzheimer's disease, who knows. But every so often, a week after I paid my rent (which was always on time) she'd approach me and say, "I'm still waiting for your rent money."
On a few occasions, I showed her my bank statement to prove to her that she had withdrawn the money. (Another tip: live close to your bank, if possible, you can request they print an updated version of your banking transactions).
So, my heartfelt best advice is this: always, always, always get a receipt when you pay your rent. In fact, I began to order cheques that came with a carbon copy attached. Another handy thing a friend of mine did was carry around a tiny little receipt book so the landlord could sign it on the spot.
A peer of mine had a landlord that used to say, "Just pay me now and I'll slip a receipt under your door later." (Oddly, the receipt never showed up). My friend was pretty distraught just before exams trying to prove that she paid her rent in cash. (Another thing, use cheques - something completely traceable).


Whoever collects your rent money, get a receipt.

Don't fall for the lines: "I ran out of receipts" or "I'll get it to you later."

Rediform Money Receipt Book, Carbonless, 2.75 x 5.625 Inches, 50 Duplicate (8L820)
Amazon Price: $3.99 $3.49 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 10, 2016)
Here's the thing: if someone is taking a fairly large sum of money from you - you are owed a receipt on the spot. I have been surprised at how many times peers of mine have run into the "forgetful" landlord. Not ALL are like this, but it's good to be aware that it has happened (and it's a major inconvenience when you are studying for exams). These cost less than $3 when I checked and you get 50 receipts.

Big room vs. small with private bathroom

A private bathroom is worth more than you think.

Take the private bathroom - even if you get less space. I'll tell you why. I once rented a big room at the YWCA in a small town (where I studied Nursing). Problem was, I had to get all dressed to use the bathroom (and shower) down the hall. If I left anything in the shower (like conditioner, etc.) it often was "used" by other tenants.
Another time, I lived with a roommate who loved to put on baby powder after showering. Thing is, the baby powder was on the floor and whenever I wore black pants and went to the can . . well, you guessed it. Baby powder was on my black pants. It was especially annoying because I worked part-time in a restaurant and my black pants were ruined. Augh!
Another overlooked thing is the party animal roommate who needs to vomit in the bathroom. I never had this problem (fortunately) but some of my peers did. A private bathroom is worth it, even if your living quarters are smaller.

Sure, go and visit the party animals

Just be sure your place isn't "party central" though.

Young people partying
Credit: RodrigoFavera on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

I can guarantee that you'll need a surge protector

Belkin 12-Outlet Pivot-Plug Surge Protector with 8 ft. Cord
Amazon Price: $34.99 $27.49 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 10, 2016)
This is the top-of-the-line with over 1,000 customer reviews. It's available in 3 sizes: 6 feet, 8 feet, and as a wall mount. What impressed me the most? This Belkin 12 Outlet Surge Protector comes with a lifetime warrant and (get this) a $300,000 Connected Equipment Warranty. Don't use cheap models, your devices are your tools at school and too costly to replace (and you'll need to stay well-connected, even at 3:00 am).

Romance happens

Put the tie on the doorknob to signal your roommate.

Credit: Por mi tripa... on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Just to recap

Here are my top six tips for campus life:

1. Look for a controlled entry lobby buzzer with a random numeric code which doesn't identify you as a single female (and doesn't post your apartment number). Living in a house? Get some kind of surveillance system hooked up to the door.
2. Keep a receipt book and a working pen handy whenever you pay your rent. Get a receipt on the spot with the proper date and the signature of the person who took your money or cheque.
3. Take a smaller room that includes a tiny bathroom over the big dorm room (where you need to leave your room to use a communal bathroom and shower down the hall). Another advantage of a cozy place is: your room is less likely to become "party central" if it's a bit on the small side.
4. Invest in a 12-outlet surge protector (a decent one). You'll need it, wherever you are studying.
5. Communicate some "ground rules" with your roommate regarding the opposite sex. A tie on the doorknob is the universally accepted signal that "I'm with someone right now."
6. If you are a single female sharing a place, traveling, or living alone - invest in a door stop alarm. They are cheap and will give you a little more peace of mind.

Something I take with me on the road for hotels

Not a bad idea for females living alone or on campuses:

Door Stop Alarm - 120 dB
Amazon Price: $11.99 $9.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 10, 2016)
I know this won't prevent every break in - but it's a handy (and very inexpensive) deterrent. Even if you share a place with someone, you can never be too sure of who comes home with your friend. I like the Sabre brand the most since it's tested before leaving the factory. You can purchase other products along with their door stop alarm, if you wish. (See video of product next).

SABRE Gatekeeper Door Stop Alarm (1:03)