You are in the U.S. to have an incredible experience. You will work hard and it may be challenging, but you will also have a lot of fun with new friends, travel, and adventure! Being in a new environment with a busy schedule can make you more likely to get sick. It is essential that you take care of your health and well-being while you are in the United States. Here are a few tips on staying healthy:
- Exercise three times a week, 20 to 30 minutes per day
- Drink plenty of water
- Sleep at least 6 to 8 hours each night
- Don't skip breakfast
- Limit consumption of unhealthy snacks, soda, and alcohol
- Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet
- Do not abuse drugs of any kind
- Remember to bring and take any prescribed medications (the cost for prescriptions in the U.S. can be very expensive)
- Visit the doctor if you are feeling sick. (Go to the Emergency Room at the local hospital ONLY if you are seriously sick or injured. If you go to the Emergency Room and you are not admitted to the hospital, you will be responsible for a large co-pay.)
For more information about your health insurance and finding a doctor in your area, please visit our insurance information page.
Your emotional wellness matters. InterExchange wants you to stay healthy while on your program, both physically and mentally. Being emotionally well means being aware of your feelings, accepting your feelings and maintaining a positive outlook even if things don’t go to plan. It is normal to feel overwhelmed as you adjust to a new place and new challenges, but if those feelings persist, the resources below can help you.
- Mental Health for International Students Video
- Common Signs of Mental Health Issues
- Culture Shock & Mental Health
- Tips for Managing Your Mental Health
- Tips for Seeking Mental Health Treatment
- Search for Nearby Counseling Services
If you, or someone you know, needs to speak to someone urgently, please contact one of these 24-hour services:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- The Trevor Lifeline (LGBTQA): 1-866-488-7386
- Treatment Referral Hotline (Substance Abuse): 1-800-662-4357
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 or https://online.rainn.org
- Crisis Text Line: Text Free in the US 741741
In general, the United States is a very safe place. You should feel comfortable in your host community. However, it is always a good idea to keep security and safety in mind, especially when traveling after your program has ended. Overall, you will find this country full of warm, friendly people who will enjoy meeting you, sharing their culture with you, and learning about your culture. If you use common sense, you will be able to avoid most difficulties and have a wonderful, safe time in the United States.
Here are some tips for maintaining your well-being and staying safe:
- Do not hitchhike - it is illegal and dangerous.
- Do not accept rides from strangers.
- Do not jaywalk or walk across or along highways.
- Do not jog or walk alone at night.
- Do not carry more money than you will need for the day.
- Do not accept any form of money from strangers.
- Do not carry your passport with you if you don't need it. Carry a different form of identification, such as your driver's license or a photocopy of your passport.
- Protect your personal ID and confidential information: Your Social Security number is yours alone. Do not share this number or allow others to use your number. Record your number in a safe place in case your card is lost or stolen. Protect both your card and your number to prevent misuse.
- During local emergencies, obey all warnings and advice from authorities and read communications from InterExchange.
- Internet safety: Don't respond to emails from strangers or provide personal information over the Internet unless on a trusted website with appropriate security.
- Avoid parks, woods, and remote areas when you are alone, especially at night.
- Be aware of your surroundings when using an ATM. Take extra caution at night.
- Always let someone know where you are going and when you will return. Contact someone if your plans change.
- Always wear a bike helmet and obey all traffic laws when riding a bike. Use lights and reflective clothing at night.
- If you feel you are being followed, cross the street and observe what the other person does. Put space between yourself and the person following you. Pretend to see a friend, even if it is a person you do not know and call out or wave to that person. You should try to attract attention and scare away the person following you. If a store, restaurant, or business nearby is open, go inside and ask for help.
- If you think you are being followed while driving, drive to the nearest police or fire station.
- Remember that cars drive on the right side of the road in the USA.
- Notify the authorities and InterExchange immediately if you are threatened by your employer, colleagues, landlord, or anyone else.
- Do not engage in threatening, immature, unlawful, or antisocial behavior.
- Obey alcohol consumption laws. The legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21. Underage drinking is illegal.
- Be careful if drinking in a bar or restaurant. Watch your drink at all times, stay sober, and do not leave with anyone you don't already know.
- Do not get into a car with a driver who has been drinking.
- Be aware of Wilberforce laws that protect you: travel.state.gov/visa
- Know the Signs of Trafficking: Everyone can help combat human trafficking by recognizing potential indicators and reporting suspected cases of human trafficking.
- If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
InterExchange is available 24/7 if there is an emergency. Call our hotline at 917.873.5877.
It is essential that you treat everyone with respect at work as well as in your free time. You should insist on being treated with respect, too! Harassment in any form is never acceptable. Being drunk or getting caught up in the moment is NEVER an excuse for behavior that is disrespectful or hurtful to others.
Sexual harassment is behavior that is uninvited, unwanted, and unwelcomed by the recipient. The behaviors include physical contact, verbal abuse, gestures, or written messages.
Sexual Harassment Includes:
- Continuous idle chatter of a sexual nature
- Sexual slurs, innuendos and other comments about a person's clothing, body and/or sexual activities
- Continuous and unwelcome flirting
- Lewd remarks or suggestive sounds such as whistling, wolf calls, or kissing sounds
- Implied or overt threats if sexual attention is not given
- Repeated unsolicited propositions for dates and/or sexual intercourse
- Jokes or comments based on sex
- The use of graphics or other materials degrading persons based on their sex
- Unwelcome touching or ogling
- Coercion, with the promise of reward
- Unwanted physical contact such as patting, pinching, stroking, or brushing up against the body
- Attempted or actual kissing or fondling
- Physical assault
- Coerced sexual intercourse
You Could Be a Victim
Who are the victims? Anyone - male or female, young or old - can be the victim of sexual harassment from someone of the opposite, or the same sex. Bosses who promise to assist with changing visa status or offer additional pay or hours in exchange for sexual favors are breaking the law.
Taking Action Against the Sexual Harasser
If you are being harassed, take action to stop it. Some options available to you are:
- Say no. Make it loud and clear. A harasser does not expect confrontation.
- Keep records of all incidents and confrontations.
- Find witnesses or others who will back up your claim.
- Get support from a friend, employer, or anyone else you trust. Make sure you don't keep it to yourself. The more help you get, the faster the harasser will stop.
- Call InterExchange immediately. We are available 24/7 at our emergency hotline 917.873.5877
- If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1
Sexism, Racism, and Homophobia
- Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on sex. It may be less direct than sexual harassment.
- Racism is the hatred, intolerance or negative attitude towards another race or other races.
- Homophobia is the hatred or fear of homosexuals or people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT).
If you think you may be being treated unfairly because of your sex, race, or sexual orientation, get support from someone you trust and call InterExchange to discuss the issue. We are always here to assist you!
For more information visit The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission online at: www.eeoc.gov.
Find more on health and safety here.
The U.S. is home to many beautiful beach towns and they're all waiting to be explored by you! As you soak up the sun and experience American beach town culture during your work and travel experience, you should also know how to keep yourself and your friends safe. Whether you go swimming into the ocean, lake, or swimming pool, be sure to follow these guidelines.
Before You Go
- Never swim alone.
- Know how to swim: If you are not a strong swimmer, have an experienced swimmer to assist you, and use a flotation device such as a life vest, arm floats to help you.
- Weather Conditions: Check the National Weather Service for surf forecasts and important beach related weather alerts. Avoid overexposure to the sun. Make sure you carry sunscreens, hats, and sunglasses to protect you from the UV rays.
- Rip Currents: Beware of rip currents! Rip currents account for 80% of rescues at beaches. Learn how to break the grip of the rip.
- Look for Lifeguards: Never swim alone and always swim when a lifeguard is present. If you don't swim well, stay in shallow depths and watch for sudden drop-offs.
- Safety Signs: Obey all the safety signs and instructions from lifeguards. Never enter the water if the beach or the swimming pool is closed. When you are at the beach, check the water conditions before entering the water. Look for any warning flags are up or ask a lifeguard about water conditions.
- Designated Spots: Swim in designated spots where there are ropes and buoys. You will avoid weeds, rocky terrain, and other dangers. Be cautious of sudden drop-offs in lakes and rivers.
- Don't Dive: Do not dive headfirst into the shallow water. Diving in shallow water can cause serious injuries. It is best to enter the water feet first.
- Drink water, not alcohol: If you are out in the sun, stay hydrated during that time. Swimming while under the influence of alcohol is not recommended. It not only impairs your judgment, but also significantly slows your reflexes.
- Help: If someone is in trouble in the water, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.Throw the victim something that floats – a lifejacket, cooler, inflatable ball.
We want you to take full advantage of being in the U.S. during the winter season and partake in some exciting winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding. Whether you are an experienced rider or if this is your first time seeing snow, you should always follow mountain rules and listen to local ski patrol. Here are some helpful mountain safety tips:
- Get a ski buddy! Never ski alone.
- Know the phone number for local ski patrol.
- Always wear a helmet while skiing. You may be a strong skier, but always be aware of inexperienced skiers around you.
- Never ski out-of-bounds or in the backcountry. These areas are not monitored by ski patrol and are avalanche-prone.
- Know your ski level and pay attention to the difficulty level of each trail.
- Obey all signs and watch your speed. If you ski too fast or ski in an unmarked territory, you may get your ski pass revoked.
- Protect your skin and eyes from the sun by wearing sunblock and UV goggles or glasses.
Be a responsible skier and you'll be sure to have a great season!
Protecting Yourself From Fraud, Scams and Theft
The InterExchange orientations and support materials provide useful advice on protecting yourself from identity theft and money fraud. Review this information, know your rights, and always be prepared to protect yourself.
If someone you don't know contacts you and requests your personal information (e.g., by phone, by email, through social media), do not share any information without verifying the person's identity. We recommend you do the following:
- Do not share any of your personal information without confirming the identity of the person contacting you. Tell the person "I can't share any information with you at this time, but I'd like to know some information about you…"
- Ask questions about the caller. If a person asks for your information but refuses to share details about themselves, it is unlikely they are contacting you for a legitimate reason.
- Request the following information: first and last names, the phone number they're calling from, their email address, the company or agency they claim to represent, their badge number or official ID number, and the reason they're requesting your information.
- Share details about this person with the program staff at InterExchange.
If someone claiming to represent a government agency contacts you and tells you that you must pay additional fees, do not give them any money or credit card information. Call InterExchange or the local police department.
Please also review common fraud schemes on the FBI website and learn how to recognize and avoid scams.
Protect Your Documents
Make two photocopies of all your travel documents in case of emergency or if your documents are lost or stolen. Leave one copy with a friend or relative at home. It is always a great idea to let at least one person know exactly where you will be staying and how to contact you in an emergency. Carry the other copy with you stored separately from the originals. Documents to make copies of include:
- Passport ID page
- J-1 Visa
- Hotel confirmation
- Airline ticket
- Driver's license
- Credit cards brought on the trip
- Traveler's check serial numbers
If You Lose Your Passport or Visa
If you lose your visa, you can remain in the U.S. for the duration of your authorized stay, as shown on your electronic I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. You will need a valid passport to depart the United States and to enter another country. You will need to contact your country's embassy or consulate if you lose your passport in the U.S.
Protect Your Valuables
- Check and understand the currency exchange rate before you travel.
- Before you leave, notify your bank, credit card company, or other financial institutions that you are going overseas.
- Avoid carrying cash and consider using traveler's checks or major credit cards instead (but make sure they are accepted at your destination before departing on your trip).
- Change traveler's checks only as you need them.
- Do not display large amounts of money when paying a bill.
Your safety is our priority. In the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, flood or other extreme weather or emergency situation, it is mandatory that you comply with emergency procedures and follow instructions issued by your local office of emergency management.
For the most current information on evacuation notices and to learn what your local area is doing to prepare for an extreme weather event or emergency, visit the website of your local Office of Emergency Management. They can also provide information about maintaining an emergency kit for such situations. Talk to your host employer to get information and guidance on how to prepare for an emergency as well.
Important Information If You Are Evacuated
It is required that you follow local evacuation instructions in emergency situations. Should you be evacuated, make sure to: Take important documents with you. This includes passport, DS-2019 Form, Social Security Card, financial records, plane ticket, checks, credit cards, etc.
Take important contact numbers and e-mail addresses. Make note of the InterExchange office emergency telephone number to call if needed: 917-873-5877.
Contact your family members to let them know you are safe and how you can be reached.
U.S. Department of State
- Stay in touch with your host employer.
- Always follow instructions from emergency management officials.
- The most important thing is to stay safe!