Health & Safety

Staying Healthy

Many illnesses surface because of a change in environment or an increase of stress. New students who arrive in the United States witness changes in time zone, environment, and diet that may initially cause sleep or digestive problems. Being kind to yourself, and allowing yourself adequate sleep and leisure time will avoid many trips to the Infirmary! As the school year progresses and finals approach, many students drop their normal eating, sleeping, and recreation patterns. While a modification may be in order during stressful times, complete dismissal of these routines may in fact increase stress, decrease performance, or cause illness. The best way to stay healthy is to stay balanced! This permits you to perform your mental and physical best.


University Health Requirements

In addition to academic requirements, the University imposes some health requirements on its entering students. The requirements include (1) purchase of comprehensive health insurance; (2) vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) and PDD (tuberculosis); (3) completion of the standardized UF health questionnaire. These requirements are intended to protect the student population and enable the Infirmary to administer health care to each student in the most effective way possible. Failure to comply with these regulations will result in cancellation of the student's registration, so it is very important that all students take responsibility for satisfying these requirements.

University Health Insurance Requirement

The University requires all international students to have health insurance which (1)has an aggregate cap equal or greater than $200,000 ( this means that each illness or accident will be covered up to $200,000); 2 ) covers for repatriation equal or greater than $7000; 3) has medical evacuation equal or greater than $10.000; 4) the insurance must be acceptable in all medical facilities; 5) pre-existing conditions must be covered after six months enrollment; 6) deductible $50 per occurrence if treatment is not rendered at the University of Florida Student Infirmary; 7) the insurance must be offered by insurers licensed to write health insurance by the Florida Department of Insurance approval. The student and visiting scholar on J visas are also required to cover their family with health insurance, as health care costs are very high and can in some cases financially destroy a person. More details about health insurance will be discussed in the "Health Insurance" section of this chapter. Health insurance brochures are available at the ISS.

University Vaccination Requirement

All students entering the University are required to show proof of measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccinations, and PDD (tuberculosis) vaccination or chest x-ray for tuberculosis, before attending classes. The Infirmary will administer these vaccinations to students who need them for a fee of approximately $40. Students should bring their immunization records (translated into English) with them when they come to the United States, so that they can show proof of all immunizations.

U.F. Student Health Questionnaire

The Infirmary issues a health questionnaire which inquires about the student's and his/her family's health history. The ISS issues copies of the questionnaire during new student check-in. Spouses who pay a fee $80 per semester to use the Infirmary should also complete a health history questionnaire.


Health Emergencies

What is a Health Emergency? In health emergencies, someone is suffering from serious bleeding, pain, or is in danger of death.. An emergency differs from other cases in its seriousness and urgency. For example, a person does not normally go to the Emergency Room when he/she suffers from a sore throat or feels slightly ill. Going to the Emergency Room in such cases may result in very expensive charges that the student may be required to pay him/herself. If you are covered by student health insurance, you are encouraged to go to the Infirmary or call the Infirmary. If this is not possible, please go to the nearest medical facility.

How to Telephone an Ambulance: If someone is not available to take the injured person to the hospital or the person cannot drive him/herself, an ambulance may be called. The all-purpose emergency telephone number is just three digits: 911. Because this number handles health, crime, and fire emergencies, the caller should tell the operator that this is a medical emergency and an ambulance is needed. Children should learn how to dial this emergency number and relate the necessary information in case they must call for help by themselves. Once the 911 operator has connected you with the ambulance service, the caller should: explain the nature of the illness (bleeding, convulsions, etc.); give the street and apartment address of the victim and his/her telephone number; give your own name; ask what you can do to help the victim while the ambulance is on its way. (The paramedics may issue instructions over the telephone while the ambulance is on its way in some urgent situations. Do not hang up until you are instructed to do so.)

Emergency Telephone Numbers

  • Alachua General Hospital (Shands Hospital) 372-4321
  • Crisis and Suicide Intervention Center: 376-4444
  • Emergency Numbers--City of Gainesville/Alachua County: 911
  • Florida Poison Information Center: 371-0000
  • North Florida Regional Hospital (emergencies only by physician referral): 333-4000
  • Poison Information: 1 800-282-3171
  • Rape Crime Victim Advocate Program: 377-7273
  • Sexual Assault Recovery Service: 392-1171
  • Shands Hospital: 395-0111
  • SPARC (Sexual and Physical Abuse Resource Center): 377-8255
  • Suicide Prevention: 376-4444
  • U.F. Infirmary 392-1161

It is a good idea to keep these numbers beside your telephone, along with your name, your address, and your telephone number, in case of an emergency. If your spouse or children do not speak English very well, you should have this information written down for them. In an emergency it is easy to forget one's address, or to forget English if it is not your native language.


Health Insurance

Why Purchase Health Insurance? Besides the fact that the University requires it, American health care is private, and therefore extremely expensive. If a person is not able to pay for him/herself and has not purchased insurance, many hospitals and physicians will refuse to treat them. For this reason, Americans purchase health insurance, which covers the bulk of their medical expenses. The University of Florida requires ALL international students and visiting scholars and their families to register for comprehensive health insurance. Students who fail to comply with this rule will not be able to register for classes.

Legal Aspects of Health Insurance

An insurance policy is a contract between the policy holder and the insurance company. Like leases or other legal documents, every word has special meaning. Not understanding these words and sentences may result in expensive medical bills and confrontations with the insurance company or medical provider. International students and visiting scholars should ask someone at ISS or call the insurance company to clarify the contract with them. These are some words that are commonly found in insurance contracts:

  • Benefits: The money the insurance company pays the health care facility if you become ill or injured.
  • Claim: The form and procedure you use when you request money from the insurance company. Sometimes the health care facility will bill the insurance company directly. Other times, you must pay the health care costs yourself first and the insurance company must reimburse you later. When you request reimbursement, you are "filing a claim".
  • Coverage: These are conditions for which the insurance company will pay. Some insurance policies provide coverage for maternity, dental, or psychiatric care; others do not. The University requires international students to purchase a policy with "broad coverage," that is, a policy which covers students in different health care situations at different health care facilities.
  • Deductible: The portion of medical costs that you pay yourself. If the contract indicates "$100 deductible," this means you pay the first $100, and the insurance company pays the rest. Most insurance policies require clients to pay a portion of the expenses; this decreases the cost of the insurance policy.
  • Dependents: Your spouse and children. If you are here with your family, your insurance policy should offer coverage of your dependents.
  • Exclusions: Cases for which the insurance company will not pay.
  • Policy: The insurance contract.
  • Premium: The price you pay for your insurance policy.
  • Rider: Additional benefits, such as maternity, dental, or health maintenance provisions, for which you pay extra money. These "riders" are added to your basic insurance contract.

How to Use Your Insurance

After you sign your insurance contract, the insurance company will issue you an insurance card, which you should keep in your wallet at all times with other identification cards. If you do not receive a card from the insurance company, please call them to ask for one. You must show this card when you visit the physician or hospital. When you visit the health care facility, ask the person who takes your card whether he/she will send the bill to the insurance company directly, or whether you must file a claim yourself. If you go to the Infirmary and have the insurance chosen by the Student Government, you need only show your card or inform them of this insurance; then you will then never have to pay the bill, as it is at once sent to the insurance company. If you are treated for something for which you have to pay a portion, the insurance company will then inform you of this fact. You should save all bills associated with your visits hospital, laboratory, and pharmacy charges and include these when you file your claim. Make copies of all these bills, as well as of your claim form, so that you have a record of your expenses and correspondence with the insurance company. It is important to read the insurance policy carefully so that you understand what the insurance company will and will not cover. Policyholders normally must ask the insurance company to send them the company's standardized claim form.

Maternity Insurance

Some students plan to have children while they stay in the United States. Maternity insurance must be purchased BEFORE a child is conceived, or the insurance company will not insure the mother. Costs involved in delivering a normal baby can reach $4,000 or more, so families who plan to have additional children while in the United States should think about protecting themselves with appropriate maternity insurance.


UF Student Health Service (the Infirmary)

The Student Health Service, also known as the "Infirmary," is located on campus between the Florida Gym and the Space Sciences Research Building (SSRB). The Infirmary is open for regular patient service between 8:00 a. m. and 8:00 p. m., Monday through Friday, during the Fall and Spring Semester. Saturday and Sunday during the Fall and Spring Semester the hours are 12:00 p. m. to 4:00 p. m. During the Summer Semester and in between semesters the hours are 8:00 a m to 4:30 p m weekdays, and no weekend hours. Emergency staff are on call after normal business hours. Scholars are able to use the Infirmary. Please come to ISS for further information.


All students who are registered for classes must pay a mandatory health fee as part of their tuition. This fee is not the same as the health insurance fee. It is a charge which helps pay for the operating costs of the Infirmary. Payment of this health fee permits the student to see a medical expert at the Infirmary for free. The specialty clinics, pharmacy, and laboratory services are not free; students are assessed a minimal charge to use them. If a student is not registered for school for one term, he/she may still pay a fee and receive Infirmary privileges. This "semester off" program also applies to student spouses. A student who has graduated from the University is no longer eligible for this "semester off" program. Student spouses may pay a fee to receive Infirmary privileges. Children may not receive care from the Infirmary, as the Infirmary does not have the staff or facilities for pediatrics. "Pediatrics" is the name for the specialization of children's medicine. Shands Teaching Hospital, other local hospitals, and private physicians (found in the "Yellow Pages" of the telephone book under the heading "Physicians, Pediatrics") can provide pediatric care to children. Students are encouraged to use the Infirmary whenever possible, because hospital care elsewhere is very expensive. In order to receive reimbursement from the Student Government health insurance plan, a student must receive a referral from the Infirmary before he/she visits another hospital.

Infirmary Services

The Infirmary is staffed with physicians, physician assistants, nurses, psychologists, and counselors who assist students in various areas. Students who need help are advised to make appointments ahead of time by calling 392-1161 during normal business hours. The staff is able to assist students on a walk-in basis in cases of sudden illness or emergency, but the waiting line is often long. The Infirmary has several clinics, including an allergy injection clinic, kidney clinic, blood pressure clinic, wart clinic, orthopedic clinic, dermatology clinic, plastic surgery clinic, allergy clinic, and a women's clinic, among other services. Some of these require referrals and additional fees. Associated with the Infirmary are a mental health section, a sexual assault recovery section, and a sports injury clinic. A laboratory and pharmacy are located at the Infirmary; these services charge fees which are normally lower than other places. The Infirmary also has hospital beds and facilities for inpatient care. It is not equipped to handle surgery or maternity cases. All visits to the Infirmary are confidential; that is, the information pertaining to these visits will not be released to third parties unless the patient authorizes the release in writing.

How to Use the Infirmary

In order to make an appointment, students should call 392-1161 between 8:00am and 5.00p.m. If a student wishes to use a specialty clinic, he/she must first consult a physician, physician assistant, or nurse, who will make a referral to the appropriate clinic. Students must present a valid fee card and picture I.D, which proves they have paid the health fee for that semester. During his/her first visit, the student will be given an Infirmary I.D. card, which must be presented for future visits. The NEXUS tape information system has tapes that explain various Infirmary services. These tapes are listed in the University telephone directory under the heading "NEXUS" in the "How's Your Health?" section. Call 392-1683 to ask for the tape number of your choice.


Information for Disabled Students

The University of Florida offers many services to disabled students. A Dean in the Office for Student Services (392-1261), P202 Peabody Hall, is responsible for assisting disabled students. Call or visit the office to meet with the Dean if you are a disabled student. The Dean can inform you of the forms of assistance on campus. A few are listed below.

Handi-Van Transportation

The Student Traffic Court sponsors a van which transports permanently and temporarily disabled students around campus. Students can purchase semester boarding passes at a small fee. The van runs between 7:00 a. m. and 7:30 p. m., Monday - Friday, and adjusts its schedule to the needs of the students using the van. Call the Student Traffic Court for schedule information.

Textbook Recording Project

Blind students can arrange to have their reading assignments recited on tape. For more information about this service, contact the Office for Student Services (392-1261) or the Textbook Recording Project Office in Norman Hall.

Speech and Hearing Clinic

The clinic offers services in speech therapy, hearing aid orientation, and speech and hearing orientation and is located in Room 442 of the Arts and Sciences building.

P.L.U.S. (Physically Limited University Students)

P.L.U.S. is a student organization which offers support towards disabled students at the University. For more information about P.L.U.S., contact the Office for Student Services.


Private Health Service

How to Choose a Private Physician

It may be necessary to visit a medical specialist if the Infirmary is not able to handle a complex medical condition. In such situations, you should receive a written referral from the Infirmary which directs you to an appropriate medical specialist. In cases not covered by the Infirmary, such as maternity or pediatric care, you can ask for referrals from the Infirmary, from friends, or from the Alachua County Medical Society. The Medical Society's telephone number is 376-0715. The "Yellow Pages" of the telephone directory lists private physicians alphabetically and by specialty. These listings may be found under the heading, "Physicians Surgeon - M.D.". When you use a private physician, you must consider how you will arrange for payment of services. Some physicians bill the insurance company directly; others will bill you, and you must file a claim to receive reimbursement for expenses. Physicians in the U.S. are both male and female. If a woman does not feel comfortable about consulting a male doctor, she should request a referral for a female physician.

Making An Appointment

Most doctors and clinics will require you to make an appointment before they will agree to see you. Sometimes the waiting time can be weeks long, so it is important to make an appointment in advance. The medical specialist will be better able to help you if you have some information about health history. Health records, including immunizations, allergies, and medical conditions, should be translated into English before you come to the U.S. or immediately after you arrive in the US. It is important to arrive for your appointment on time since Americans are very time conscious. Physicians see many people in one day and may not have time to see you at all if you are very late for your appointment.

Local Hospitals, Urgent Care Centers and Clinics

The largest local hospitals that are close to the University are listed below. Other hospitals specializing in psychiatry, drug and alcohol dependency, and other areas, are also listed in the telephone book. Alachua General Hospital which now belongs to Shands Hospital (372-4321), 801 SW 2nd Avenue, is located five blocks east of the university. Alachua General Hospital offers a full range of services to patients, including medical/surgical services, obstetrics, pediatrics, and psychiatric care. North Florida Regional Medical Center (333-4000), State Road 26 (University Ave./Newberry Rd.) at I-75, is a hospital which offers a wide range of services, including the Women's Center. Emergency care is only available on a physician's referral basis. Shands Teaching Hospital (395-0111), SW Archer Road, is the University of Florida's teaching hospital. It includes facilities for medical and dental care. Medical students and faculty offer care for patients, using many new techniques in the field. The UF Student Infirmary normally makes referrals to the Physicians' Clinics at Shands Hospital. These clinics provide medical assistance in different areas. Doctors who teach at the U.F. Medical School handle these clinics. Because the waiting list for these clinics is long, it is important to make an appointment early.

Urgent Care Centers

Urgent Care Centers provide immediate assistance to people with standard injuries, such as bone fractures, lacerations, and sprains. They are not equipped to handle serious emergencies such as those involving internal injury. Urgent Care Centers are less expensive than hospital emergency rooms. They are located throughout Gainesville. Listings are in the city phone book "Yellow Pages" under "Emergency Minor Medical Facilities Services." A few are listed here:

  • Alachua Urgent Care Center:
    Monday - Saturday, 8:00 a. m. - 8:00 p.m.; 925 NW 43rd Street; 371-1777
  • Emergency Medical Center:
    Monday - Saturday, 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.; 6121 NW 1 Place; 331-4357
  • North Florida Regional Hospital:
    Monday - Saturday, 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.; University Ave at I-75; 333-4900

The Alachua County Health Department (336-2356), 730 NE Waldo Road, offers clinics in family planning, foreign travel immunizations, sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS testing, tuberculosis, and other areas. They also administer shots to children who will be entering the public school system at a cost. The Health Department does not handle emergency cases, and does not administer to everyone. You must call the Health Department to inquire about the clinics for which you may be eligible.

Women's Clinics

Several women's clinics in Gainesville offer a variety of services from family planning counseling to physical examinations. The Infirmary has a women's clinic Other women's clinics may be found in the "Yellow Pages" of the telephone directory under the heading "Clinics."

Maternity Care

Insurance The cost of having a baby in the United States can be very expensive--approximately $4,000 for a normal delivery; therefore, it is advisable to purchase maternity benefits as part of your health insurance policy. It is crucial that you purchase maternity insurance before you conceive your child, or an insurance company will not cover you.

Length of Time in a Physician's Care

Most physicians and midwives prefer to monitor an expectant mother throughout her pregnancy, so pregnant women should choose an obstetrician (a doctor who specializes in delivering babies) early. Care before delivery is known as "prenatal care;" care after delivery is called "postpartum care." If the Infirmary or a friend cannot refer you to an obstetrician, consult the "Yellow Pages" of the telephone directory under the category "Physicians - Gynecology Obstetrics" or ask for a referral from the Alachua County Medical Association. (376-0715). Childbirth Preparation Classes. The local hospitals have facilities for delivering babies, and offer "Childbirth Preparation" classes for expectant mothers. These classes are intended to orient expectant mothers to changes in their bodies and the childbirth process. Contact the local hospitals to find out more about their childbirth preparation courses.


American's Concern with Personal Cleanliness

Some visitors to the USA may not be aware of the concern for personal cleanliness which Americans have. They may not realize that body odor or strong breath is considered offensive in this culture. This is especially a problem in Florida due to high degree of humidity. Students who come from countries where high humidity is not a problem may be unaware of this problem. They may therefore consider extreme efforts towards cleanliness wasteful or unnecessary. Not being aware of others' concerns, however, could lead to confrontations or problems with roommates, classmates, or officemates, since they might be embarrassed to tell you what they are thinking. If you suspect that others are avoiding you for this reason, you may want to ask a close friend about it or discuss it with one of the counselors at the ISS


Dental Care

The preoccupation with cleanliness carries over to dental care. The average American visits a dentist or hygienist (a professional who cleans teeth) usually once or twice per year. By caring for teeth properly, they should last for a person's lifetime.

Where to Go for Dental Care

The University of Florida has a Dental School, which offers a less-expensive source of dental care in the Gainesville community. Patients can make appointments with dental school professors and students during the school year. Because care is provided at a slightly lower cost, the waiting list is often long. Patients are encouraged to make appointments early. The UF Dental School (392-4261), is located in the Shand’s Hospital. Private dentists may be found in the "Yellow Pages" of the telephone book under the heading, "Dentists." If you have any questions regarding choice of dentists, please contact the ISS.


Mental Health

What is Mental Health? Good mental health relates to good physical health. Maintaining a positive mental state permits a person to function effectively in normal and stressful situations. Mental health can be a difficult topic to define specifically, because the definition varies between cultures. People who normally cope very effectively with situations in their own countries may find themselves needing assistance from time to time, due to the new cultural environment. In general the following behaviors may indicate an unhealthy mental state: prolonged depression; suicide contemplation; physical, verbal or mental abuse; alcohol abuse, or drug abuse. If you are experiencing any distressing feelings, or know someone else who is, you should seek help. Many sources of help are available to people who need mental health counseling, and it is expected that people will take the initiative themselves to seek help when they need it. Seeking help is acceptable, expected, and confidential. Some people refuse to seek help because they feel uncomfortable about sharing their personal concerns with outsiders. If you feel you may need some help in overcoming a situation, please do not hesitate to ask for it. Consultations with counselors at the ISS or the Counseling Center at Peabody Hall, and other support offices, are confidential. A counselor can only offer support, help and concern if you let them know you need them.

Where to Go for Help

The ISS staff is especially aware of the difficulties international visitors face. No question is foolish, except the one which is not asked! Please feel free to come in and see one of the counselors. Below is a list of resources that can help students in different situations. The Office of Student Services also publishes the "Student Lifesaver," an excellent pamphlet which lists resources for specific areas.

General Mental Health, Depression:

  • ISS: 392-5323 ex 600
  • NEXUS (refer to Univ. telephone book for tapes) 392-1683
  • Student Mental Health, Infirmary: 392-1171
  • University Counseling Center 392-1575


  • Alachua County Crisis Center
    218 SE 24th Street
    Gainesville, FL 32641
    Crisis Line: (352) 264-6789
    Suicide Hotline: 1-800-Suicide(1-800-784-2433)
    Rumor Control: (352) 264-6557
  • Crisis Suicide Intervention Center: 334-0888
  • NEXUS Counseline (refer to Univ. phone book) 392-1683
  • Student Mental Health, Infirmary: 392-1161
  • University Counseling Center: 392-1575

Drug Abuse:

  • Corner Drugstore 334-3800
  • Infirmary 392-1161
  • Shands Emergency Room 395-0050

Alcohol Abuse:

  • Alcoholics' Anonymous: 372-8091
  • BACCHUS 392-1261
  • Rape/Sexual Assault
  • Emergency Numbers--Gainesville/Alachua County 911
  • Sexual Assault Recovery Service, Infirmary 392-1171
  • University Police Department 392-1111

Battery, Physical Abuse:

  • SPARC (Sexual Physical Abuse Resource Center) 377-8255

This list is not intended to be comprehensive. For information about where to go for help, call the ISS (392-5323), the Office for Student Services (392-1261), or the Information and Referral Service of United Way (375-4636).


What Everyone Should Know About AIDS/HIV

The Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS is a serious health threat to persons of every race, nationality, age group, and sexual preference. It is an illness caused by a virus which can destroys the immune system of the body. The virus eliminates one's capacity to fight against other illnesses that invade your body. These illnesses can cause one's death. So far there is no cure for AIDS. Who you are has nothing to do with whether or not you are in danger of being infected. AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease. There are very few ways in which one can become infected with the AIDS virus. It can be transmitted through semen, vaginal secretions, and blood. As a result, one can become infected by having sexual relation with an infected person, or by using drugs and sharing the needle or the syringe. Babies of women who are infected with the AIDS virus can be born with the AIDS virus, because AIDS can be transmitted through the blood of the mother to the baby during pregnancy or labor. Receiving infected blood has infected some hemophiliacs and others. Donating blood at a blood bank or hospital does not put you at risk of being infected with AIDS. The needles used for blood donation are new and sterile, and once used, they are destroyed. There is no way you can get AIDS through blood donation. Some persons have been infected with the AIDS virus by receiving transfusions of blood before 1985, before the AIDS virus was identified. Today all donated blood from the United States is screened for the AIDS virus. For more information, contact the Civitan Regional Blood Center, 1221 NW 13th Street, (334-1000), or the Alachua County Health Department, or the Florida AIDS Hotline (1-800-FLA-AIDSor 1-800-352-2437), or a counselor at the ISS. The Alachua County Health Department or the Civitan Regional Blood Center can give a test for the AIDS virus. To prevent the sexual transmission of AIDS, condoms (prophylactics, "rubbers") in combination with spermicides (foam or cream used with an ingredient that kills sperm) is the best method for those who engage in sexual relations with a partner whose sexual history is not known.


Home Security

Some of the best home security practices are also the simplest. Gainesville has its share of crime, and you should always be conscious of your own personal safety.

Lock Your Doors & Windows

Lock all doors and windows when you leave your home or apartment. Burglars or criminals will try the unlocked dwellings first. Don't make it easy for them by not keeping your doors looked. You should lock your doors and close your windows at night before going to bed. If you leave your apartment for even a few minutes, such as going to the laundry room, always lock your door. If you live alone or have easily accessible windows, you should lock your windows at night before you go to bed as well, or have protective devices such as security locks put on your windows to prevent break-ins. Don't assume second story windows are safe. Burglars can climb! Install "dead-bolt" locks on exterior doors. Simple "spring-bolt" door locks can be easily opened from the outside by experienced burglars.

Have Adequate Lighting

Install adequate outdoor lighting by your entry doors. Floodlights or other bright outdoor lights prevent intruders from gaining entry to your home or apartment. Leave them on at night whether you are at home or away.

Don't Put Full Name In Phone Book

If you are a single woman, list your first name initial only in the phone book. Ask the phone company for other ways to protect yourself from unwanted callers. Also, list your first initial on your mailbox or door so that it is not obvious you are female. Even if you have other female roommates, you may all want to conceal your single female identity.

Don't Hide A Key

Never leave a spare key outside the entry door, as experienced burglars also know to look under the doormat and other "secret" places.

Don't Open The Door To Strangers

Never open the door to a stranger. Ask for identification through the door. If your door has a peephole, use it to see who is there (If your door does not have a peephole, discuss with your landlord about getting one installed.). If you do not know the person, do not open the door. Ask through the door what they want. If a stranger wants to use your phone, ask the number, and make the call for the person, or call the police or 911 and make a report for the person. Do not open the door. If strangers present themselves as law enforcement officers, ask for their name and identification. Call the law enforcement agency to verify that that officer is there on an official call. If strangers present themselves as repair or delivery persons, call the company to verify the authenticity of the person before you open the door. You can check the person's identification through the peephole or window.

Re-Key The Locks

Have all the locks re-keyed when you move into a new dwelling. You may need to have your landlord's permission first, as the manager may need to have access for maintenance, and to have a spare key in case you lock yourself out.

Lock Sliding Doors

Install a protective device on any sliding glass doors if there is none. Burglars can gain entry through sliding glass doors as well as other doors.

More Tips

  • Take your keys out before you get to your door and have them ready to use, so you don't stand before your door fumbling for your keys.
  • Make sure your valuables are not in plain sight, in view of passersby. If you have valuables, close your drapes so those items are not in view. Any time you leave your apartment, close your drapes.
  • Keep the telephone numbers of local emergency services such as fire and police beside your telephone.
  • Windows should have additional protective devices to prevent the window locks from being forced open. Hardware stores carry home security devices.
  • External door hinges should either be changed or altered with protective screws to prevent a burglar from removing the entire door to gain access to your dwelling. Garage doors should also be secured.
  • Teach children never to open the door to strangers.
  • Report suspicious persons or activities in your neighborhood to the police.
  • Never give out your name, address, or phone number or other personal information to unknown callers.
  • Never tell a stranger that your neighbor is not at home.
  • Never give out information that you are alone, or when you will be away from home or on vacation. Teach children never to give out such information.

If You Are Robbed

If you hear or suspect a burglar is in your home while you are there, avoid a confrontation. If possible, call the police immediately. If you come home and your dwelling has obviously been entered, do not go inside. The intruder may still be inside. Go to a neighbor or other location to call the police. If you come home and your dwelling has been burglarized, do not go inside. Go to a neighbor to use the phone to call police, and wait at the neighbors until the police arrive.

Some of these recommendations may sound a little extreme. But if you are new to this country, you may perceive all Americans as friendly, and may not expect criminal activity from a friendly stranger. We are not advising you to suspect everyone you meet as a criminal, but do try to exercise good judgement. If you are suspicious of a person or suspect that you are in danger, do not hesitate to call the university police (392-1111). It is better to let them check out the situation. You might talk with friends or a counselor at the ISS if you have more concerns regarding what type of situations to avoid. The university police department has many brochures on home safety tips, personal safety, and any topic that has to do with safety. You may stop by and ask to have any brochure you would like, and they can also give you advice on these subjects.


Personal Safety Tips

Practice the Buddy System

Practice the "buddy system", let friends or neighbors know where you are going, when you plan to return, and what routes you will take, and how you can be reached at your destination. Travel with a "buddy" to and from your activities.

Be Careful When Walking

Pay attention to those walking around you. Walk in an alert and confident manner in parking lots and on the street. Learn self defense techniques. Travel in well-lit, highly traveled areas. Avoid taking "short cuts", especially through dense, wooded areas, even during the day. Don't walk close to bushes, parked cars, alleys, or suspicious-acting people. Don't jog at night or in the early morning when streets are deserted.

Guard Your Belongings

Guard your purse, backpack, or wallet. Don't carry large amounts of cash or other valuable objects. This is especially the case if you are studying in the library. Even if you leave for a moment, take your things with you. If you think someone is following you, switch directions or go across the street. If you're still being followed, go to a public place and ask for help. Trust your instincts. If someone or something makes you uneasy, get out or away.

Have a "Fire Drill"

Have a "fire drill" in your dwelling, so that in case of an emergency you will know escape routes.

Lock Your Car Doors

Keep your car doors locked, especially when you are driving. As you approach your car, look around it and in the back seat before entering.

Don't Hitchhike or Pick Up Hitchhikers

Don't hitchhike. Not only is it dangerous, in some cases it is illegal. Do not pick up hitchhikers. Do not accept rides from strangers when you are stranded with car trouble. If your car breaks down, raise the hood, and wait in your locked car for a law enforcement officer to arrive. If someone stops to help, ask him or her to call for assistance for you. Don't go with a stranger to call for assistance.

Don't Leave Valuables Sitting Out In Your Car

Keep valuables out of plain view in your car. It is best not to keep valuable items in your car at all, even if in your trunk. Burglars can break into a car or its trunk in minutes.

Be Careful On The Bus

If you ride the bus, use well lit, busy bus stops. Sit near the driver, and don't doze off or fail to pay attention. If someone harasses you, say loudly "leave me alone". Watch who gets off the bus with you, if you feel uneasy, go to a public place to ask for help.

Report Obcene Phone Calls

If you get an obscene or harassing phone call, hang up as soon as you realize the nature of the call. Don't try to find out who the caller is, and don't respond. If the calls keep coming, notify the police, keep a log of the times, what the caller said, a description of the voice, and any background noise.


Campus Security

The University of Florida campus is a secure place. Doors to residence halls are kept locked. The Housing Office maintains residence hall security from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. There are emergency "blue" phones located across the campus. These phones are directly linked to the UPD which is the University Campus Police. All housing staff have uniforms and identification cards. Residence hall staff are trained for security and crisis situations. Information desks are set up in residence halls. To enable the University to maintain campus security, students must do their part. Follow the above personal and home safety tips. Go to the UPD and get brochures on safety measures. Use good sense, and report suspicious or criminal activity. It is far better to have the police investigate what may turn out to be a non-threatening matter, than to allow a crime to be committed or to become a victim of a crime.

SNAP (Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol)

Students who must walk on campus at night do not have to walk alone. The Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol, or "SNAP", is available to every student. You call the SNAP Office (392-SNAP or 392-7627) at the University Police Department in advance of when you need to be escorted. Then, a SNAP officer will meet you at the time and location you request, and walk with you to your campus destination. You can ask the University Police Department to verify the identify of the SNAP officer, so there is no doubt of your safety. This service is free. Call the UPD for more information. IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY, CALL 911.

Emergency Phone Numbers

  • University Police Department: 392-1111
  • Alachua County Sheriff's Office: 367-4000
  • Gainesville Police Department 334-2400

Alcohol Awareness

Florida has strict laws concerning the use of alcohol, specifically regarding drinking alcohol while driving, and underage drinking.

Drunk Driving

If you are driving a car, moped, or bicycle, and are under the influence of alcohol (or any illegal drug), you may be arrested for "driving under the influence" (or DUI). Penalties are severe, even for the first offense.

Underage Drinking

Florida's laws prohibit the sale of alcohol to anyone under age 21. The penalties for this are also severe. Possession of alcoholic beverages by a person who is under age 21 is illegal. Being arrested for the sale or possession of alcoholic beverages by underage persons can result in a jail sentence and/or a fine and possible suspension of driving privileges. Misrepresenting your age or using a "fake I.D." is also illegal and punishable by law.

Open Container Law

It is also against the law to have open containers of alcoholic beverages while driving, whether or not you are consuming them or are "under the influence".


Traffic Laws

Florida has many traffic regulations that affect not only drivers of automobiles, but also bicyclists, moped and scooter drivers, motorcyclists, and pedestrians.


Persons on foot must obey pedestrian traffic control devices ("Walk/Don't Walk" signs, crosswalks, intersection crosswalks, etc.). Don't walk in the street if there is a sidewalk. Be aware of traffic as you walk and as you wait at an intersection to cross. Never step in front of a moving vehicle. They may not see you, and if you are not in the pedestrian crosswalk they may think they do not have to stop for you. In fact, you are required to yield the right-of-way if you are not in a pedestrian crosswalk. Never cross diagonally across an intersection.


Vehicles must yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Every driver must exercise caution to avoid hitting any pedestrian or bicyclist. Drivers should exercise extreme caution when observing any child or incapacitated person near the roadway. If a bicyclist is in a crosswalk, the bicyclist has the same protection as a pedestrian, and must obey the pedestrian rules while in the crosswalk.


A bicyclist riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, and must give an audible signal before passing or overtaking a pedestrian. Bicyclists are considered vehicles, and must obey all traffic laws as if they were cars. Never run stop signs, traffic lights, ride against traffic (on the wrong side of the road, not in the flow of traffic), or ride at night without a light. It is required to use an attached front headlight on your bicycle if you ride at night, and to have a red rear reflector attached to the bicycle. It is recommended to wear a protective helmet when riding a bicycle. A bicycle helmet is an inexpensive safety device that can be easily purchased in stores such as Wal-Mart for approximately $25. Wearing a helmet may protect you from head injuries or even death if you are in an accident. It is also recommended to use hand and arm signals to indicate to drivers your intentions, although you cannot trust drivers to see you. Give a warning to a vehicle to alert them to your presence if you feel they may hit you. You may not carry another person on your bicycle, unless you have a permanent and regular seat attached to carry a child, or a bicycle trailer. If you must ride on the roadway, and cannot keep up with the speed of the cars, you are required to stay as far as possible to the right of the roadway. The brakes on your bicycle must be able to stop you within 25 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour on a dry, level, clean pavement. You cannot wear a personal stereo headset while riding your bicycle. You must keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. It is highly recommended that you purchase a "U-Lock" or other heavy-duty bicycle lock to protect your bicycle from being stolen. It is also recommended to have a personal identification number engraved on your bicycle's frame to identify it.


Mopeds must not drive on the sidewalk or in crosswalks. You must follow the same traffic rules as cars. If your moped travels less than 30 miles per hour, has less than 50 cc engine power, or less than two brake horsepower, and you are 16 years of age or older, you do not have to wear a helmet, although it is strongly recommended. You must carry liability insurance, the same as an automobile, and you must have a permanent tag on your moped. Do not run a red light or a stop sign. The fines for these offences are very high. To operate a moped without a light or brakes is illegal. If you were to be arrested and convicted for operating a moped with a driver's license that is suspended or revoked, for reckless driving, or for driving under the influence (DUI), you could be sentenced to serve a jail term, which, consequently, could cause immigration problems.

Mandatory Safety Belt Laws

Florida State law requires the driver and front-seat passengers to wear seat belts. If a front-seat passenger under 16 years of age is not restrained by a child restraint device or fails to wear a seat belt, the driver of the car will be charged with violating this law. If a front-seat passenger 16 years of age or older fails to wear a seat belt, the passenger will be charged with violating this law. Wear lap belts around your hips, not your stomach. Fasten them snugly. Wear a shoulder belt only with a lap belt. More than half of the accidents that cause injury or death happen: 1) at speeds of less than 40 miles per hour (mph), and 2) within 25 miles of home. All children 5 years old or younger must use a child restraint device when riding in a motor vehicle. Traffic accidents are the number one killer of young children in this country. Over 90 percent of deaths and 80 percent of injuries to children in car crashes could be prevented by using approved child restraints. Infant carriers or children's car seats must be used for children 3 years old or younger. Children's car seats or safety belts may be used for 4- and 5-year olds. All infant carriers and car seats must be approved by the U.S. Government. The North Central Florida Safety Council at 3710 NW 51st Street (377-2566), has an approved list of U.S. Government-approved child safety seats. In a crash, you are far more likely to be killed if you are not wearing a safety belt. Wearing both the shoulder belt and the lap belt makes your chances of living through a crash twice as good. In the event of an accident, safety belts: 1) keep you from being thrown from the vehicle (your risk of death is five times greater if you are thrown from a vehicle in a crash); 2) keep you from being thrown against parts of your car, such as the steering wheel or windshield; 3) keep you from being thrown against passengers in the car, or their being thrown against you in a crash; and 4) keeps you, the driver, behind the wheel, where you can control the car.

Leaving Children Unattended or Unsupervised in Motor Vehicles

NEVER leave a child younger than 6 years old unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle. It is a violation of Florida traffic laws to leave a child unattended in a car for more than 15 minutes. However, you should never leave a child alone in a car, or anywhere else for that matter, for even a second! It is a violation of state law to leave a child unattended for any period of time if the motor of the vehicle is running or if the health of the child is in danger. Also, a child left alone in a closed car may suffer heat stroke or even death in Florida's hot climate. (Animals left in a closed car may also suffer heat stroke or death if left in a closed car for even minutes.)

False or Altered Driver Licenses

It is illegal to use a "fake" driver license, or to alter your own driver license. If you use another person's license as your own, it is a misdemeanor criminal offense. The penalty will include fines, revocation or suspension of your license, or a jail sentence. It is a felony to alter your own driver license, for example, to make your date of birth different to make you of legal drinking age. A felony is a criminal offense for which you will be arrested, in addition to fines, and revocation or suspension of your license. Additionally, it is a felony to use a false name to apply for a driver license, or to give false information when applying, or to obtain a license under fraudulent circumstances. The penalty is immediate arrest, and a maximum fine of $5,000 and imprisonment up to 5 years, and your driving privileges may be suspended for one year. If you drive without having a valid driver license, or let someone drive your car or know of someone who drives without a license, this is also illegal. The person driving without a license, and possibly the person knowing about it is subject to punishment.


Child Care

If a child is between 5 and 18 years of age, he or she should be placed in school. If a child is younger than that, the parents may decide to take care of the child at home. There are also childcare centers for younger children. If the parent needs assistance in caring for the child, whether school age or younger, on a weekend or an afternoon, then some type of childcare may be appropriate. It is illegal to leave children unattended for long periods of time. Parents sometimes take their children to day care centers so they may run errands. There are many childcare centers in Gainesville. Some places have age limitations. The term "babysitting" usually refers to childcare in the family or babysitter's home. "Day care" normally refers to a more formal arrangement where the parents leave their children daily. Child care, day care and babysitting are expensive.

Child Care Centers

What to Look for in a Child Care Center: Childcare centers are staffed with people who have different qualifications. Some may have educational certification, while others may not. Parents may want to research a center thoroughly before sending their children there. Friends are often excellent sources of information about which childcare centers have the best reputations. Childcare centers are in the "Yellow Pages" of the city phone book under "Child Care Center." Baby Gator: The most demanded child care center for the University community is the Baby Gator Nursery (392-2330, 392-7900), an educational research center for child development. Baby Gator is located on Village Drive, adjacent to Corry Village and the Holland Law Center. The Center can accommodate 110 children who are between the ages of 3 and 5. Baby Gator charges a fee for their care and has a waiting list. Baby Gator maintains current lists of other recommended child care centers in Gainesville.


School care differs from childcare. School lasts during the day hours; attendance is part of the child's progression in education, and is required by law. The Alachua County School system requires that children be at least 5 years of age by September 1 of that school year in order to begin public school. State law requires that children attend school until they reach the age of 16. Schools are categorized as "public" or "private." "Public" refers to those schools funded by taxpayers and the government, and they are free. "Private" refers to those independent institutions that charge tuition and may have special admissions requirements. These private schools are sometimes affiliated with churches. Most international students send their children to public schools.

Public School Registration

In order to register a child for school, a parent must present the following documents to the Alachua County School Board (955-7300), located at 620 East University Avenue: 1)the child's passport and visa; 2) the child's immunization record (translated if necessary and approved by the Alachua County Health Department); and 3) proof of a physical examination. Proof of diphtheria, polio, and MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) immunization is required by the School Board. Parents should call the School Board to see whether the list of vaccinations has changed when their child is ready to enter school. If proof of these vaccinations is not available, the Alachua County Health Department, located at 730 North Waldo Road (955-2415), will re-vaccinate individuals with these required "shots" at a charge. The immunization records must be translated into English before the Health Department will verify them. The Health Department does not translate documents or perform physical examinations. Physical exams must be verified on the Alachua County School Health form available from the School Board. The Urgent Care Centers (located in the "Yellow Pages" of the city phone book under the heading "Hospitals") or private physicians can perform the exam for a charge. The Urgent Care Centers and physicians have copies of the Health Form in their office. The parent should also make arrangements to meet with the Bilingual Education Director at the School Board, who will test the child for fluency in English, and will recommend an appropriate school with adequate facilities.

Independent Schools

At independent schools, parents pay for the child's tuition. Each school has its own philosophy of education and therefore may impose different teaching methods. Each school determines its own tuition rates and entrance requirements. A list of private schools may be found in the "Yellow Pages" of the telephone directory under the heading,"Schools --Private."

P. K. Yonge Laboratory School

This a school affiliated with the University of Florida. It teaches children in elementary and high schools. Parents must place their child's name on a waiting list in order to attend the school. Because the waiting list is often months or years long, parents should add their child's name to the list immediately if they are interested in having their children attend the school.

Transportation To and From School

The county provides bus service to different areas. The School Board has updated information about the current routes. Parents of children who do not live on a bus route may drive their children to school individually or in "car pools" (where different parents take turns driving each week), walk with their children, or permit their children to walk or ride by themselves. If parents permit their children to go to school unattended, they should emphasize the importance of safety to their children. We advise parents to accompany their children to school.


The county hires traffic police officers to assist students in crossing the street when they walk to school. Nevertheless, children should be instructed to cross the street only when no cars are in sight. They should also be warned not to speak to strangers. Other safety precautions, such as walking together in groups, should be taken. Some parents pin identification cards to their children's clothes, so the children may be identified if they should become lost. This is especially important for children who have not mastered the English language. It is also important to teach children how to call their home telephone number or the 911 emergency number and inform the person at the end of the line of their name, location, and need.

The School Day

Except for kindergarten, the school day lasts from approximately 8:00 a m to approximately 2:00 p m, with recess and lunch times in between. Starting and ending times for the school day may vary from school to school because of the school bus schedules. Many parents pack lunches in lunch boxes or paper bags for their children, although it is also common to purchase lunches in the school cafeterias, too. For more information, contact the School Board.