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.
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
Prepare to Handle Money
- Check and understand the 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 flash large amounts of money when paying a bill.
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. If you lose your visa or passport, follow these steps for a replacement. You will need to contact your country's embassy or consulate if you lose your passport in the U.S.
When searching for a place to live, make sure that your place of work can be reached easily by public transportation, walking or biking. If you don't have access to a car, look at local transportation options, like buses and train systems, in your area. Plan your travel time to allow enough time to get to and from work easily and safely. Watch this helpful bike safety video, look at our bike safety poster (PDF) and watch these bike & traffic safety videos for more tips.
If you need to bike to work, or if you ride in your free time, please follow these safety guidelines:
- Always wear a helmet. In many states, this is the law.
- If you ride at night, make sure your bike has reflectors and lights on the front and back. (InterExchange offers free bike lights; please contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to request one.)
- Wear white or bright colors when walking or biking at night.
- Make sure your bicycle is adjusted properly and that the tires are full.
- Assure bicycle readiness. Make sure your bicycle is adjusted properly.
- Scan for traffic and use hand signals when changing lanes and making turns.
- Obey all traffic laws.
- Never wear headphones while biking.
- Cars and bikes drive on the right side of the road.
- Secure your bike with a lock when not in use.
- Always ride following the flow of traffic.
- Do not ride your bike on busy highways or freeways. In many cities, this is illegal.
- Ride in single file to ensure you are not obstructing traffic. Bicycling two abreast can be dangerous.
Driving in the U.S.
Remember that cars drive on the right side of the road in the U.S. If you plan to drive in the U.S., you must study and follow the local, state, and federal laws regarding driving. Consult the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the state where you would like to drive. Never drive after drinking alcohol and never get into the car with a driver who has been drinking. Always wear a seat belt.
Local Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMV): Local DMV offices may be found through an Internet search, or by visiting the state's official DMV website. For more details about the DMV and driving in the U.S., please refer to the driving information section of our website.
Use extra caution and:
- Stay on marked roads
- Be aware of special weather and road conditions (e.g., snow, fog, flooding)
- Use extra care around school buses, trucks and large vehicles
- Follow parking rules
- Be aware of pedestrians
- Do not text or use your cellphone when driving
- Don't drive drunk
- Don't speed
- Always wear your seat belt!
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 photo copy 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 anti-social 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 anyone 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.