It would be an understatement to say that my parents were a little nervous when they sent me off to Emerson College in Boston for the first time. Now, after two full years at school, I can say that I don't blame them for worrying.

There are a number of things to be concerned about, from making sure I get enough sleep to navigating a social life to what may be the biggest issue for college students - campus safety. Whether you're going to college in a city or a small college town, campus safety is something to think seriously about. It is important that you know what to do so that you don't find yourself in any dangerous situations.

Many campuses have emergency call boxes stationed at various points so that you can quickly get help if you feel uncomfortable or have an emergency to report. For example, if you feel like someone is following you, you can call the campus police and they will come to help you.

If there are no call boxes on your campus, you can enact your own safety measures by having easy access to your cell phone when you are on campus, especially if you are alone. That way you can dial 911 should anything happen. If you can, you should always make sure that you travel with at least one other person if you are out late at night. One of the most unsafe things you can do is walk around by yourself at night, especially if your school is in a big city.

Another issue to watch out for is the college party situation. Having a social life is extremely important, and parties are a major part of this. However, college parties, whether they take place in dorms, frat houses or off-campus, can be very dangerous if you don't know how to handle them. Alcohol and drugs combined with pressure from other students creates a toxic mix for many students, many of which end up in the hospital every year because of alcohol- and drug-related accidents.

Be responsible and know that only you control your decisions, and help your friends out as well if you see them making decisions they may regret later. If you or a friend find that you are in a bad situation where alcohol or drugs are involved, never hesitate to contact your school's wellness center or emergency services. Most schools have an amnesty program that forgives underage drinking and drug use in the case of an emergency. It is better to get help than to try and deal with the situation on your own when somebody's health or life is at risk. These are just a few issues to think about if you are a parent or a new college student. For more tips and advice on college safety and health, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Sydney Lester is an intern in Marketing and Communications at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. "Health Matters" is a weekly column meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care. To learn more about SVHC, visit svhealthcare.org.