Creating a Sleep Sanctuary

“Sleeping” by Shannon Kokoska. Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Sleep. Wonderful, elusive sleep. Sleep provides us time to rest and restore our bodies after the wear and tear of everyday life. People who get 8-10 hours of sleep a night have been found to run faster, have lower stress levels, avoid accidents, and live an overall happier life. But what happens when our commitments interfere with our sleep schedule?

Being in school can–unfortunately for many–mean sacrificing getting a proper night’s sleep in order to balance academics, extracurriculars, and a fulfilling social life. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are well documented, and can range from impaired memory and critical thinking skills, weight gain, and even severe health problems like heart disease over time. Paying special attention to your sleep hygiene is one way to combat that.

What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene, contrary to what the name may lead you to believe, is not about making sure that your body and bed is clean and nicely made every day. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep hygiene is simply a “variety of different practices that are necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness.” One fun way to enhance your sleep hygiene is to create a “sleep sanctuary” for yourself to promote healthy sleep habits and a soothing sleep environment.

How can I make my own “sleep sanctuary”?

One simple step to start with is to be conscious of the light in your bedroom. Blue light from phones, computers, TVs, and even LED lights can disrupt the body’s sleep cycle and interrupt the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your sleep patterns. Sometimes, though, late night homework and phone usage happens. Apps like f.lux can help minimize the amount of blue light coming from your screen, so late night study sessions (or Netflix) won’t impact your sleep quite as much.

Reducing your anxiety and stress is also key to getting a good night’s sleep. Although exercise during the day can help reduce anxiety and stress, intense exercise soon before bedtime can actually provide a boost of energy that will keep you up longer, so try and focus on yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises to help you bring down your stress and anxiety in a sleep friendly way. Alarm clocks can also be a serious detriment to sleep. Looking at the clock while trying to fall asleep can increase anxiety, making it harder for people to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Researchers suggest even turning your clock away from you or keeping it far enough away so you can’t see the time when you wake up in the middle of the night.

And last, but certainly not least, make your bed a sacred space. Sitting in bed watching TV, working on your laptop, or playing video games is both comfy and convenient, but it could be putting a good night’s sleep at risk. Try to use your bed only for sleep and self-care, like stretching and reading – if you start to bring stressful things into your bed, you may start to associate those feelings with sleep!

“Empty Bed” by Lillie Kate. Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

What are some things you’d want in your sleep sanctuary? Let us know in the comments!

Kristan is a Program Assistant for Health & Wellness at UNC Student Wellness. Read their bio here.

Sorting Hat Quiz: Is your Relationship Healthy?

Unfortunately, determining if your relationship is healthy isn’t as easy as finding out if you’re a Gryffindor. If only!  After all, relationships, whether romantic or any other kind of sexual connection, are complex interplays between people, and it can be hard to gain clarity on people and situations closest to us. This is why it’s important to regularly reflect on how your relationship is going and check in with yourself and your partner. Nonetheless, has some great resources including quizzes on whether your relationship is healthy, unhealthy, or abusive that can help you identify  your own behaviors as well as those of your partner(s).

After you check out the quizzes, consider:

  • People in all relationships (healthy, unhealthy, or abusive) can feel love, care, and affection for each other, and enjoy each other’s company.
  • But people in abusive relationships, or what UNC refers to as interpersonal violence, also use a wide range of abusive behaviors against their partner, including physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that cause the partner to feel intimidated, frightened, terrorized or threatened.
  • This abuse may happen during the relationship or after the relationship is over.  
  • These abusive behaviors are rooted in a need to maintain power and control.
  • Often, one partner has and seeks to maintain power and control.  It may also be possible that all partners may be engaged in a power struggle, with the person who has the power changing over time.  Researchers are still arguing about this.
Photo “Devious Question” by Zita, Flickr Creative Commons

What we do know is that, since abusive behaviors are about exerting power and control, they can be practiced both by those who are granted privilege in society and by those who have been made to feel out-of-control in their lives for some other reason—such as past trauma or oppression—and are seeking to regain a sense of power. Nothing—including past trauma—justifies abusive behavior.  But knowing more about who practices abuse can prompt us to be vigilant about our own behavior in relationships and ensure they’re healthy.
To learn more about how to develop healthy relationships, please see the LGBTQ Healthy Relationship curriculum, regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity.  If you think you are in an abusive relationship, or are wondering if you are, please see the resources at

Anole H is a graduate intern with Student Wellness. They are getting a dual Masters in social work and public health. Their research interests include sexual violence prevention and LGBTQ health equity issues.

Supporting Friends Who Experience Interpersonal Violence

Most of us know someone who has experienced interpersonal violence (sexual assault, abusive relationships, stalking, or harassment), and supporting that person can be difficult work.  Watching people who we love and care about suffer is never easy, and we often want to do anything that we can to help them feel better.  This is a wonderful impulse!  It can give us energy to provide lasting and meaningful support to others.  However, it can also encourage us to set up unhealthy boundaries as friends and allies.

The most powerful and generous gestures we can make to individuals who have experienced interpersonal violence are to

1) Listen to the experiences and emotions that they are sharing

2) Validate and Believe what they share and

3) Connect them to reporting and support resources that they feel comfortable seeking

“Talk” by Matus Laslofi, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Folks often underestimate how meaningful these seemingly simple actions can be.  They worry that being “just a friend” or “just an ally” isn’t enough and sometimes take it upon themselves to “save” their friend and “fix” their problems for them.

When we feel this impulse to fix or solve, it can be helpful to think about how we are reacting to what is being shared with us.  It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, sad, anxious, afraid, angry or disheartened when our friends talk with us about their experiences with interpersonal violence.  We want to be cautious that we are not taking control of someone else’s experience because we feel out of control in the face of it.

When we take charge of other people’s experiences of interpersonal violence we:

1) Remove their power and control

2) Compromise their healing process

3) Make the situation about us and not about them

4) Force them to rely on us for support we cannot give

Listening, believing, and, sometimes, saying “I may not be the best person to help you with this, but I know someone else who can,” are often the most effective ways to empower our friends as they heal.

Being a helpful friend and ally means setting boundaries with our friends even when they ask us to support them in ways that make us feel uncomfortable or that seem unhealthy.  We cannot support others if we feel exhausted, anxious, angry or resentful.  We simply burn out.  When we are aware of our emotions, acknowledge our limitations, seek support for ourselves, and set boundaries, we ensure that the care that we offer to others is more meaningful and sustainable.  Being an ally doesn’t mean stopping our lives to “save” someone. It means guiding and supporting a friend to the resources they want in order to heal.

For more information about how to respond to and support folks who have experienced interpersonal violence sign up for a HAVEN training or visit the website.

This post was originally published October 2013. It has been edited for clarity. 

What is RVAM, and what does my roommate have to do with it?

Ya’ll may have heard (and if you haven’t, scroll on down to the next post) that October is RVAM! Also known as DVAM, RVAM celebrates RV/ DV/ IPV/ FV Awareness Month… basically all of the letters all the time. So what’s going on with this alphabet soup?

  • Relationship Violence: between people in relationships—friends, coworkers, acquaintances, students, professors, roommates, intimate-partners, family members, etc.
  • Domestic Violence: between family members or intimate-partners
  • InterPersonal Violence: between people/ communities
  • Intimate-Partner Violence: between intimate-partners
  • Family Violence: between family members

Here at UNC, we choose to use the term “relationship violence” because it best describes the people between whom violence exists at UNC. However, when you go to the Safe at UNC website to check out the incredible list of RVAM events occurring on and off campus this month, you may notice that our dearly beloved (and sometimes not so beloved) roomies aren’t being discussed in this slew of events. So what’s the deal?

Roommates: an Important Part of the “R” in RVAM

RVAM is motivated by the idea that everyone deserves a safe and healthy relationship- and roommates are an important part of that!

Now, we’ve all had that roommate who did some uncool bad-roommatethings and made our life miserable for a semester or two.

But at the same time, roommates can also be kinda great. In any roommate relationship, like in all relationships, there will be conflict.How you choose to handle that conflict is what will make the roommate relationship healthy or unhealthy.

So, how do you handle roommate conflict in a healthy way? Well, remember that long awkward roommate agreement you had to do at the beginning of the year in university housing? Turns out they had a smart thing going there. Communication and setting expectations is key to resolving good-roommateconflict in a healthy way. There are tons of resources available online to help improve you communication skills – even though some might be focused on romantic relationships, those same skills can be used in any setting!

It’s also important to remember that conflict is a normal and natural part of any relationship. However, if you’re constantly fighting with your roommate, and you feel that they have power and control over you, you might be experiencing relationship abuse. It’s never ok for someone to put you down, call you names, humiliate you, threaten you, coerce you, minimize you, or treat you disrespectfully.

Not sure what’s going on in your relationship with your roommate? There are quizzes online, like this one from, that can give you some insight. While these tests are geared towards romantic relationships and should only be used as a starting point, they’re a good way to help you get a better picture of what’s going on and start a conversation.

Want to learn more about healthy relationships? Take Sustaining Healthy Relationships, a free online module created by the UNC LGTBQ Center and Student Wellness!

Looking for help/ support on or off campus? Check out

Linda C is a Program Assistant for Violence Prevention at UNC Student Wellness. Read their bio here.


In My Words: Getting an IUD at UNC Chapel Hill

by Abby Kaufmann, guest blogger and UNC student

After 3 years at UNC-Chapel Hill, I have become very familiar with the general clinic at Campus Health Services but I had never really utilized their Women’s Health Services until this October when I got an intrauterine device (IUD). I am currently interning in a position where 10 hours of my week involves researching articles about reproductive justice issues, many of which are about birth control access and affordability. At the time I began the internship, however, I was not on birth control. The risk I was taking really started to nag at me, making anything intimate seem extra nerve-wracking and less enjoyable until I finally decided to do something about it.

A few weeks prior to making the decision to get an IUD, I had to go to campus health multiple times for a cold that just wouldn’t go away. Each time I was there, I couldn’t help but appreciate the free condoms throughout the building and the pamphlets on safe sex that included tips for queer people. But what really caught my attention were the charts on birth control in every exam room I visited, like this one:

I saw that with condoms, my go-to method of birth-control at the time, there was still anywhere between a 2%-18% chance of getting pregnant (depending upon whether or not they are used correctly).  I had tried things like the pill and the NuvaRing in the past but I was always forgetting when to take the pill or when to replace the ring which I knew made them less effective. I decided that an IUD would be the best way to go; not only are IUDs more effective than birth-control pills and the NuvaRing, they last for years.

The first time I heard about an IUD was in a magazine article in 2012. Even then, I recognized the benefits and expressed interest in getting one to my gynecologist in Cary at the time. She didn’t think it was a good idea and successfully scared me into changing my mind. She told me that, since I had never given birth, it would be painful and that this pain was too much for most of her younger clients so she often had to remove their IUDs. She said that the NuvaRing would be my best option since it would be easier to remember and that it was just as effective as an IUD (I now know that both of these statements were false). I expected a similar reaction at Campus Health but was pleasantly surprised to find a wealth of resources about IUDs and to feel supported by both the nurses and the doctors.

I thought I would be able to just show up, have the procedure, and then go about my business for the next 3 years but this was not the case. When you make an appointment to get an IUD at Campus Health Services, you are required to have a brief consultation first so that you can discuss the various types of IUDs and what to expect during the procedure. After that, I also had to make an appointment for a well woman exam so they could check for STDs, do a pap smear, perform a breast exam, and assess my health in general. While it was a little annoying to have to come back so many times, I realized that it was all because Campus Health actually cared about my overall wellbeing. It also provided a good opportunity to get to know the doctor before the procedure.

Usually, CHS prefers to do the procedure when you are menstruating so that they can rule out any chance of pregnancy (even though they do a pregnancy test anyways) because of the life-threatening risks associated with getting an IUD while pregnant. Because of this, some students may have to wait longer than they would like to before they can get their IUD but in the end, it’s really for their own good.

To say that I was impressed with UNC Campus Health Women’s Services would be an understatement. They made sure I felt comfortable about the procedure not only during the procedure itself but before and after it as well. Never once did I feel judged or discouraged from making my decision.

I would encourage my peers to utilize UNC Campus Health’s birth control resources If you attend a different university, don’t be afraid to contact campus health on your campus to see what services they provide. Also, be sure to check out Bedsider for ways to bring birth control to your campus and to compare methods side-by-side.

I’m thankful for birth control. And I’m thankful that Campus Health Services at UNC understands that, as college students, we already have so many things to worry about and that getting pregnant doesn’t have to be one. #ThxBirthControl

Abby originally posted this content during her internship and agreed to let us re-post here with slight modifications as a guest blog. View the original blog post here. 

RVAM 2016

October is Relationship Violence Awareness Month (RVAM). There are a lot of events and ways to get involved at UNC! The overall theme is love empowers and here are some ways that you can be involved to learn more information about Relationship Violence.

Participate in the Social Media Campaign:

  • Post the RVAM image above to your social love-empowersmedia account to spread the word!
  • Take a photo of your hands in a heart shape and post it to any of your social media accounts. Write “My #loveempowers by *insert your response here* #rvamunc”.
    • Example: “My #loveempowers by making my roommates feel heard. #rvamunc”
    • Another Example: “My #loveempowers by encouraging my friends to follow their dreams. #rvamunc”

Compass Center DVAM Event

Tuesday, October 4 from 4 pm to 7 pm at the Crunkleton

Dos and Donuts of Healthy relationships

Thursday, October 6 from 11 am to 1 pm in the Pit

  • Heels United for a Safe Carolina campaign in partnership with the RVAM committee to hand out information/resource cards and “Love Empowers” buttons!

Ammunitions for Change: Explaining the Surprising Adoption of Domestic Violence and Gun Control Policies Across the United States from 2009 – 2015

Thursday, October 6 from 12 pm to 1 pm in Michael Hooker Research Center, room 3100

  • Lecture by Gender-Based Violence Speaker: Sierra Smucker, MSc, PhD Candidate, Duke University
  • The availability of firearms continues to threaten the lives of American citizens on a daily basis. However, a persistent political narrative suggests that calls for policy change are futile; that any legislation at the national level will be killed by the powerful gun lobby; and because of our permissive gun laws, the United States will continue to have more gun violence than any other developed country in the world. While this narrative is supported by the failure of federal policies that regulate firearms, a significant number of state legislatures have passed gun reforms that protect women in abusive relationships. Since 2013, 18 states, including historically pro-gun states like Louisiana, Tennessee, and Washington, have passed new laws to protect victims of domestic violence from firearms. In a time of deep political polarization, particularly around the issue of firearms, why are some state legislators passing these policies while rejecting other types of gun control policies? Is the change we are seeing in DV and firearms policy evidence of a transformative change in American politics or is it an outlier? Using an in-depth case study approach, this study begins to unravel the puzzle of DV and firearms policy by investigating the passage of domestic violence and firearm policy at the state level.

Film Screening and Panel Discussion: “Behind Closed Doors”

Thursday, October 13 at 6:30 pm (doors open at 6 pm) at the Varsity Theatre.

  • Compass Center for Women and Families is partnering with the Carolina Women’s Center and the Beacon Program to host a screening of the BBC documentary “Behind Closed Doors.” Learn more and view the trailer at
  • The screening will begin at 6:30 pm, with doors opening at 6 pm. A panel discussion will follow.


Monday, October 24 from 1 pm to 4 pm at Granville Towers or Thursday October 27 from 1pm – 4pm at SASB Plaza

  • Students will “trick-or-treat” their way around to the different stations, picking up candy and other treats as they interact with various organizations and offices.

These are some of the ways that you can get involved, if you would like to know more about these events or want to check out other events, visit the website:

Olivia Bass is a Program Assistant for Violence Prevention with Student Wellness.

Where Do You Draw the Digital Line in Your Relationship?

When you’re dating someone or generally boo’d up, it’s natural to want to share things with your partner. Whether you share a lot of personal things about your past or you’re that couple who eats off of each other’s plates at dinner, sharing things with your boo can be a way to show your partner you care about them and is often a positive sign of comfort in a relationship.

Find Love
“Dating Online” by whybealone1, Flickr Creative Commons

There is such a thing as too much sharing however, especially when it comes to your digital privacy. Sharing your Facebook or email password with your partner may be tempting, especially if they are someone you really trust, but that information is not as simple as letting them have a fry off of your plate at dinner. Sharing your password to private accounts gives the person access not only to information you send other people, but also information they share with you. This puts your privacy, as well as the privacy of your friends and family that communicate with you online, at risk. If a partner or hook up buddy pressures you to email or text them super-hot pictures of yourself, take a minute to think about what may happen down the line and how much control that person will have by owning private pictures of you. If your boo is constantly texting you wanting to know where you are or who you’re with, or gets unnecessarily frustrated if you don’t respond to a text or IM within .15 seconds, it may be time to have a real in the flesh talk about digital boundaries.

A healthy relationship allows all people involved to retain some space and independence outside of the relationship. Authentic trust between people does not necessitate constantly checking up on someone or having access to all their digital interactions with others. Even if these kinds of requests come off as concern, trust your instincts if the vibe you’re getting is more one of control than affection. Be clear with your boo about what you are and are not comfortable with when it comes to digital privacy, and hopefully you’ll be able to have an honest discussion about their true concerns and move to a healthy place of resolution.

The bottom line is, if someone is pressuring you to give up your digital privacy in a way that you’re uncomfortable with, you have a right to stand your ground and retain whatever boundaries you’re comfortable with. Your online and mobile accounts are all a part of you, and if a partner is controlling, pressuring, or disrespecting you in those spaces, you have a right to feel violated.

If you’d like to explore issues of digital privacy more in order to assess your relationship, check out If you or a friend is experiencing digital pressure from their partner and you’re worried it may a sign of an abusive relationship, the Compass Center for Women and Families has an anonymous hotline available 24/7 where you can chat with a trained advocate at 919-929-7122. You can also use your digital communication skills to get more information by checking out www.loveisrespect.organd chatting online with a trained representative from 5pm-1am EST.


This post was originally published June 2012. It has been edited for clarity. 

Spiritual Wellness in College (and what is spirituality, anyway?)

Photo courtesy of Randi Hausken

“Spiritual, but not religious” has become a popular phrase—it even has its own Wikipedia page and was featured on NPR. But what do these words actually mean? Can you be religious, but not spiritual? Or religious and spiritual? Or neither religious nor spiritual?

Religion typically refers to a personal set or institutionalized system of beliefs, attitudes, and practices used to worship a god or group of gods. Spiritual tends to refer to things pertaining to the human soul or spirit, rather than physical or material objects. Another definition of spirituality seems to apply to both non-religious and religious spiritual experiences comes from Sam Harris’s book Waking Up: “Spirituality begins with a reverence for the ordinary that can lead us to insights and experiences that are anything but ordinary.”

Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Transportation’s Photo Stream

Regardless of how you choose to answer the questions above, this quote seems to highlight an important point: Taking the time to slow down and appreciate the beauty in ourselves, others, and the world around us allows our day-to-day experience to become extraordinary. It’s also pretty important for our health, according to several researchers. For example, one study found that keeping a gratitude diary was associated with enhanced well-being. Numerous studies have also shown links between religious involvement, stress reduction, and health (see Dr. Harold Koenig’s book for a great review—available through UNC libraries).

Photo courtesy of Sebastien Wiertz

The link between various spiritual practices like mindfulness, yoga, and meditation and stress reduction/well-being is also very well-documented—in fact, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has become a popular and effective method for reducing anxiety. Check out this awesome MBSR workbook for some great stress reduction tips (also available at UNC libraries!).


Okay, so that all sounds great, but when am I supposed to have time to work on my spiritual wellness in college? Here are some tips:

  1. Find what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to try something different!
  2. Get connected to a religious/spiritual community, either at UNC or in the surrounding area. Being connected to others is a great way to reduce stress and feel “at home” at UNC.
  3. Try scheduling 10 minutes per day to do Just be. Just breathe. Put it on your Google calendar as “me time,” and take it seriously, as if it were a standing meeting with yourself.
  4. Keep a gratitude journal. On days that are especially stressful or challenging, you can look back and remind yourself of all the things that have gone well recently.
  5. Try out some breathing exercises.
  6. Give meditation a try. Meditation is used, in some form or another, by all the world’s religions and by folks who aren’t religious at all, so there must be something to it. Science also agrees. Try these apps to get started!
  7. Look for the extraordinary in everyday things. Pay attention to the goodness in the world around you, the goodness in other people, and the goodness in yourself.

Kaitlyn B is the Program Assistant for Resiliency Initiatives at Student Wellness. Read their bio here.


Need confidential advocacy? Meet the new Gender Violence Services Coordinator.

holly-lovernPhoto courtesy of Holly Lovern.

This is Holly Lovern, one of the Gender Violence Services Coordinators (GVSCs) at UNC. She works in the Carolina Women’s Center, where she provides confidential support and resources for students, faculty, and staff who have experienced sexual or interpersonal violence, stalking, and other forms of discrimination and harassment. If you want to get a hold of Holly or her co-Coordinator, Cassidy Johnson, send them an email at

I sat down with Holly to learn more about her and what she can do for you.

Kelli Raker (KR): Since you’re new to the area, what is your favorite thing about UNC-CH so far?

Holly Lovern (HL): My favorite thing about UNC-Chapel Hill so far is definitely the people I’ve met. The students, my colleagues, and all the campus partners I have the opportunity to work with have been so welcoming and have made Carolina feel like home very quickly!

KR: Tell me about your role as a Gender Violence Services Coordinator. What happens when someone comes to talk to you?

HL: During my first meeting with someone, I’ll explain my role, the kinds of help and support I can offer, and what being “confidential” means. From that point on, it is really up to each person on what they may want to talk about. The same is true for folks who meet with Cassidy Johnson, since we both serve as Gender Violence Services Coordinators (GVSCs) and our roles are the same!

We can talk about what has happened or is happening to them, and how it is impacting them. But we also don’t have to talk about that. We can talk about safety, self-care, the reporting process, resources available on campus and in the community, accommodations they might need, etc. Everyone’s needs are different, so we can focus our conversation to best meet those needs. I’m also here to any answer questions someone may have, and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll try my best to find the person who does.

Based on what someone shares and needs, I offer to connect them to appropriate resources on campus and in the community that can provide additional help and support. I can also facilitate requests for accommodations regarding housing, academics, and interim protective measures. If someone chooses to connect with another resource or report to the University, I can also act as a support person if they would like me to and accompany them to any meetings and hearings they may have.

At the end of a meeting, we can talk about “next steps” ‘if there is something the person wants or needs moving forward. Some people may meet with me once and others may meet with me several times. I’ll offer to follow up with them at a later date if they are comfortable with it to check in. Overall, I’m really here to be whatever the person coming to my office needs me to be.

KR: What does being “confidential” mean?

HL: As a confidential advocate, I am not obligated to report what we talk about to anyone unless someone discloses child abuse, dependent abuse, elder abuse, or an intent to harm self or others. If any of those come up in our conversation, I do need to report it. However, we can talk together about connecting with appropriate resources.

KR: What do you want survivors to know about you and your role?

HL: I want survivors to know that I believe them and I’m here for them.

When connecting with the GVSCs, it’s okay if you know what you want and need, but it’s also okay if you don’t. We can process and work through that together. I want to help empower you to make the best choices and decisions for you and your well-being and success.

KR: What do you do for your own wellness?

HL: It depends on the day! I enjoy being around my family and friends and exploring the community around me. I also like being outside, especially near or out on the water. I can’t pass up a good book or Netflix series either, though!

KR: If you could be a kitchen utensil, what would you be and why?

HL: I’m not a great cook, so this is kind of a funny question. Probably a cheese grater because I love cheese and a good quesadilla.

If you or a friend have experienced or are experiencing sexual violence, interpersonal violence, stalking, harassment, or discrimination, learn about resources and support at

Kelli is the Coordinator for Violence Prevention Programs at UNC Student Wellness. Read their bio here.

Still adjusting to college life? No worries – it’s normal.

I wish someone had told me when I started undergrad that the adjustment can be really tough and that it can take awhile. I was also far from home, missing my friends from high school, and trying to get used to college life.

Instead, everyone told me that college would be the best four years of my life, that I would make amazing new friends, and enjoy the freedom of being on my own.

I later realized that it’s normal to feel awkward, lost, confused, homesick, and lonely (and so many other things!) when you start college. The first semester is especially hard for many people. It’s a huge adjustment, and even though everyone might not always be open about it, lots of people struggle when they start college. It’s still totally normal to not feel ready to call UNC home yet—sometimes it takes a semester or two (and sometimes more) to feel at home.

Here are some tips that I found helpful when I was struggling to adjust and that might help you find ways to make the campus feel a bit more like home.

Remember, it took Harry a while to feel at home at Hogwarts, too! — photo: “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: This Way To Hogwarts.” Scott Smith. Flickr Creative Commons.
  • Know that you aren’t alone. Lots of people feel the same way, even if they aren’t talking about it. You are not the only one who is having a difficult time. It’s a time of transition for everyone and it can be very overwhelming.
  • Keep your door open. If you live in a residence hall, leaving your door open is a good way to meet people in your hall. It can also be a way to invite people to hang out without having to be especially social. It’s not too late to still meet people who live in your hall! If you’re a grad student, leave your office or carrel door open. Just the “window” to the rest of the world leaves space for some interactions that might not otherwise happen.
  • Find a place on campus you like. This could be a tree to study under, a favorite spot in the library, the Union, or an office on campus, such as the LGBTQ Center or Women’s Center. Leave some favorite spots in the comments!
  • Talk to people in your classes. Did someone ask a thought-provoking question in discussion? Tell them so—it can lead to a great conversation that you can continue over lunch or coffee. Also, forming study groups is a great way to know people while also helping each other out! This can be a good way to get to know people in your class you’ve wanted to talk to all semester.
  • Join a club or organization. Getting involved is one of the best ways to meet people. In addition to being a place of higher education, college is also a great time to try something new or connect with people who have similar interests. Check out a sport, a service or political organization, or a religious or cultural group on campus. Joining a club or organization gives you an opportunity to meet friends who have similar interests, and for many clubs you can join at any point throughout the year.
  • Know your resources! There are lots of people on campus who want to help you adjust and who understand it can be rough. CAPS can be a great resource to talk out how you are feeling, especially if these feelings persist. The Learning Center and The Writing Center are great places to visit to talk about adjusting to the college workload and college level writing. All these resources are covered under student fees, so it costs you nothing but a bit of time to take advantage of them!

Welcome to UNC, y’all!

Amee Wurzburg is the Sexual Violence Prevention Program Manager at Student Wellness. She is currently earning her Masters in Public Health at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC. Amee received her BA in History from Barnard College of Columbia University. Before moving to North Carolina, Amee worked at an organization in India focused on HIV, where she worked on projects related to rights-violations, LGBTQ health, and domestic violence.

This post was originally published November 2014. It has been edited for clarity.