As Penn State students prepare to leave for spring break, several local agencies are urging caution during the week of downtime.
Penn State police have put out a list of tips for students traveling over break.
“It’s proactive,” said Chief Tyrone Parham. “Some of these things are what we have actually heard when students get back. It’s not hypothetical.”
Some are practical ideas good any time, such as carrying cellphones at all times and keeping purses held to the front and wallets in a harder-to-pick front pocket. Others are specific for tourist-heavy vacation destinations.
“Never hand your wallet to anyone. One scam involves people in police uniform who show phony badges and request to check your wallet for counterfeit money or drug cash. It’s all a ruse to clean out your wallet,” campus police said.
Others involve being wary of street peddlers or impromptu photographers, as well as scams where someone offering to split the cost of a valuable found object leaves the victim cashless with a piece of worthless junk.
The tips might seem like common sense to more experienced travelers, but not necessarily for many spring break revelers.
“Some of our students haven’t really gone anywhere on a non-family vacation before,” Parham said.
And for many, the lower drinking age in popular destinations like Cancun and the Caribbean can lead to heavy alcohol consumption.
“I think the alcohol aspect is important,” said Parham, although he knows few partiers want to hear that message. “Do so moderately, be aware of limits.” Drinking to excess, he said, makes you an easier victim.
That’s something all students need to remember all the time, but especially at spring break, said Anne Ard, the executive director of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center.
“I urge all young adults to be careful in highly alcohol-fueled situations,” she said. She specifically didn’t limit that to women.
“We tend to say girls should be careful, but that absolves guys of responsibility,” said Ard. “It’s important for us to be clear that everyone has to pay attention to issues of consent, to be clear about the messages you are sending and receiving. If you don’t have consent, it’s not sex; it’s sexual assault.”
Even with consent, making bad choices about sex on spring break can have unintended consequences.
“Because we tend to see an increase in (sexually transmitted infection) testing after spring break, we are recommending ... students come in before and after spring break to get tested and keep their partners safe,” said Jill Nadorlik, marketing manager for University Health Services, which launched a self-testing option for chlamydia and gonorrhea this week. For $18, students can get tested without making an appointment or being seen by a clinician.
Dr. Richard T. Hale, who practices internal medicine with Mount Nittany Physician Group, suggests heading off that danger by remembering to use condoms. He also suggests keeping emergency contraception options in mind.
Other suggestions from Hale include staying hydrated (but remembering to be careful about the water in some foreign countries), being aware of the dangers of alcohol poisoning, keeping the importance of sunscreen in mind and designating a sober driver.
Parham also urges students to report any crimes in the jurisdiction where they occur, rather than trying to handle them long distance after school is back in session.
“Absolutely, you have to contact the local police,” he said.