Answering students’ questions about close contacts, quarantine, and isolation at UNC

We know pandemic protocols have become complicated, and we also know y’all have a lot of questions. Here’s an overview of the Contact Tracing process, guidelines for close contacts, and links to the quarantine and isolation guidance.

Contact Tracing Process

  1. POSITIVE TEST: It all starts when someone tests positive for COVID-19.
  2. CONTACT TRACING INITIAL CONVERSATION: Contact tracers reach out to the person who tested positive to determine who in their circle was a potential close contact. The positive person’s name and information remains confidential.
    • WHO COUNTS AS A CLOSE CONTACT? A close contact is someone who has been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes cumulative time, regardless of whether a face mask was worn by either party. If you are not contacted or if a positive case is not in your household, then you are not identified as a close contact. For example, people who are at least six feet apart in a classroom or group setting will typically not be considered a close contact. 
  3. OUTREACH TO CLOSE CONTACTS: The contact tracing team will reach out to individuals who are potential close contacts and advise on next steps based on that individual’s specific situation.

Next steps: General Guidelines for Close Contacts

Remember, contact tracers will advise on next steps based on that individual’s specific situation. Here is general guidance:

Aysmptomatic close contacts can be tested at the Carolina Together Testing Program based on the timing in the chart above.

Any symptomatic close contacts should be tested at Campus Health as soon as symptoms arise.

If you test positive, notify Campus Health and follow isolation instructions.

As a member of the UNC-Chapel Hill community, you are required to comply with the COVID-19 Community Standards which include reporting a positive test, participating in COVID-19 contact tracing, and taking appropriate follow-up steps as directed by health officials such as entering quarantine or isolation or taking a COVID-19 test.

Student Health Equity Internships

Position Description:                                                                                                      

Campus Health and CAPS at UNC Chapel Hill are currently seeking two paid, part-time, temporary Student Health Equity Interns. These positions will:

  • Develop and implement targeted initiatives to Black, Indigenous and Students of Color with a goal of improved access to medical and mental health resources
  • Review Campus Health and CAPS policies and practices through a health equity lens
  • Advise Campus Health and CAPS about strategies to better support and serve BIPOC students.

Initial interventions will focus on COVID vaccine education and promotion to populations who have exhibited higher levels of vaccine hesitancy. 

Interns should be able to work independently as well as collaboratively and take initiative on projects that will help the overall goals of Campus Health and CAPS’ health equity efforts. Interns report to the Marketing and Communication Coordinator for Campus Health.

Specific skillsets sought include strong communication skills and an understanding of or willingness to learn about health equity practices on a college campus.

Characteristic Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Supports strategic efforts to reach BIPOC students on campus with health and mental health education and promotion which will require engagement and collaboration with BIPOC student groups and staff including outreach to cultural centers and initiatives.
  • Drafts written and multimedia content for social media, websites, blog, and emails
  • Facilitates opportunities to increase reach of Campus Health and CAPS communication efforts to BIPOC students using digital and in-person initiatives and outreach
  • Delivers inclusive, culturally competent communication and interventions to BIPOC students
  • Serves as representative of Campus Health and CAPS, maintaining a professional and creative digital and in-person presence
  • Serves on Marketing and Health Education committee for Campus Health and the Campus Health Advisory Board
  • Assumes other duties and responsibilities as needed

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Ability to work 10 hours per week, including occasional weekend and evening hours
  • Ability to work through 2020-2021 academic year, at minimum
  • Current undergraduate or graduate student at UNC Chapel Hill
  • Understanding of Campus Health and CAPS’ mission, goals, objectives and services
  • Understands public health perspectives on health equity and can apply those at UNC Chapel Hill

Compensation:  $15 per hour

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until position has been filled; review of applications will begin immediately. 

Submit a single PDF document to including

  • A letter of interest that details your thoughts on how Campus Health and CAPS can better support BIPOC students at UNC, as well as how you can help reach BIPOC students with health promotion content.
  • A current resume

For more information:

Campus Health

Counseling and Psychological Services

Healthy Heels

The University of North Carolina is an Equal Opportunity Employer. 

Tips for Physical Activity this Fall

Keep yourself active on campus this fall with these tips from Exercise Is Medicine at UNC:

  • Aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity – walking, running, cycling or swimming would all qualify.
  • Perform resistance training twice a week. Work on all large muscle groups with compound movements.
  • Spend time outside. Research shows that exercise performed outside is more enjoyable and has mental health benefits.
  • Take advantage of UNC fitness and recreation resources such as group fitness classes, workout reservations, and outdoor adventures.

Exercise Is Medicine is a program at UNC Chapel Hill promoting physical activity as a vital sign of health.  EIM encourages faculty, staff and students to work together toward improving the health and well-being of the campus community by:

  • Making movement a part of the daily campus culture
  • Assessing physical activity at every student health visit
  • Providing students the tools necessary to strengthen healthy physical activity habits that can last a lifetime
  • Connecting university health care providers with university health fitness specialists to provide a referral system for exercise prescription

To learn more visit

Tips for Getting A Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important parts of maintaining a healthy body and mind. As a college student, you have lots of things that can work against you when it comes to getting the sleep you need (academic commitments, busy schedules, late night meetings, roommates and stress, just to name a few). The consequences of poor sleep can be major. Did you know people who have poor sleep have poor attention, decreased memory retention, increased likelihood of getting sick and increased likelihood of having an accident? Fortunately, we have some simple, easy to follow suggestions that will have you catching Zzz’s in no time.

Woman with eyes closed laying on a pillow

Sleep Hygiene

You may have heard this term before. Sleep Hygiene are the basic strategies we should all be following to give ourselves the best chance at getting a good night’s sleep. Read through this list and see if there are any ways you could make some changes to improve these sleep promoting behaviors.

  1. Limit Caffeine: No more than 3 cups per day. No caffeine in the late afternoon or evening hours (at least 4-6 hours before bed).
  • Limit Alcohol: May help you fall asleep at first but can lead to sleep disruption and make sleep less restful.
  • Exercise Regularly but not Close to Bedtime: Regular moderate exercise can improve quality of sleep.
  • Try a Light Bedtime Snack such as Milk, Peanut Butter, or Cheese: These foods contain chemicals your body uses to produce sleep and can make you drowsy. Avoid big meals close to bedtime.
  • Keep Your Bedroom Quiet and Dark: Noise and light can disrupt sleep; try white-noise machines or ear plugs to screen sounds if noise is unavoidable. Use eye masks if light is unavoidable.
  • Keep your Bedroom Cool: Temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit can disrupt sleep.

Other Sleep Improvement Guidelines

While Sleep Hygiene strategies are a necessary foundation for quality sleep, they are unfortunately not sufficient. Here are some additional tips for improving and maintaining good sleep habits.

  1. Select a Standard Rising Time:  Set the time and stick to it every day, regardless of how much sleep you get each night. This will create a stable sleep pattern.
  • Use the Bed Only for Sleep and Sex: Do not read, watch TV, eat, study, use the phone or computer, or do other things that require you to be awake. These activities unintentionally train your brain to be awake in bed.
  • Get Out of Bed When You Can’t Sleep: Never stay in bed for extended periods of time without being asleep; this will increased frustration and worry about not sleeping and make it harder to sleep. It also creates a negative association with your bed/sleep time. If you are awake for 15-20 minutes, get out of bed no matter the time of night. Leave your room if you are able. Engage in relaxing, non-stimulating activities and don’t return to bed until you are ready to sleep.
  • Don’t Worry, Plan or Problem-Solve in Bed:  If your mind is racing, get out of bed and go to another room until you are able to return to bed without the worry. Consider setting aside time earlier in the night to worry so it’s less likely to follow you to bed.
  • Avoid Daytime Napping: Napping weakens sleep drive, making it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
  • Avoid Excessive Time in Bed:  Go to bed when you are sleepy but don’t go to bed so early that you spend more time in bed than you need; this can make sleep worse. Determine how much time you “need” for sleep and stick to it.

Adapted from Edinger & Carney, 2015 by Anna Lock, PsyD and Coordinator of the Integrative Health Program

Wellness Checklist for Incoming UNC Students

noun_Checkbox_798260.pngEstablish healthy habits.

  • Schedule physical activity, healthy eating and stress reduction like you schedule your classes. If you schedule it into your day now, you’re less likely to skip it later. Bonus points for adding in social support – like by joining an intramural or club team, or scheduling fun fitness activities with friends.DSC_2340

noun_Checkbox_798260.pngFind and explore spaces to help you stay healthy at UNC.

  • Campus Rec offers 10 facilities that host all kinds of fitness classes, outdoor adventures, team sports and aquatics. You have already paid to access these facilities in your tuition and fees so take full advantage!
  • Dining Services alone has 14 locations across campus, plus there are many options nearby in the community. Look for diverse options and nutrient-dense, yummy food!
  • Campus Health hosts a wide range of services including Sports Medicine, International Travel Clinic, Nutrition Services and more. Counseling and Psychological Services is located in the same facility.

noun_Checkbox_798260.pngFind local health care. Connect to a primary care provider and pharmacy.

  • You have already paid for services at Campus Health through tuition and fees, so you can come see a provider during the week at no further cost to you!
  • You can also schedule Campus Health appointments when it’s convenient for you online.
  • Campus Health offers same day care visits for urgent needs 7 days a week during the semester (weekend visits have a service charge associated with them that is not covered by the health fee or insurance – but all other days are already paid for with your student fees!).
  • Visit one of the two on-campus pharmacies – Campus Health Pharmacy or Student Stores Pharmacy to get the prescription and over the counter items you need. Most items available at lower costs than other pharmacies.

noun_Checkbox_798260.pngMake your mental health a priority.

  • Start making friends! You are now in community with more than 5000 UNC students also new to campus. Some of your soon-to-be lifelong friends are among them.
  • Get involved in campus organizations that interest you. This is one easy way to find people with similar interests. Search for what fits you using Heel Life.
  • Seek professional help before things get awful – ideally as soon as you start to feel overwhelmed. Initial visits to Counseling and Psychological Services are available Monday – Thursday from 9-12, and 1-4 and Fridays 9:30-12 and 1-4. These have already been paid for in tuition and fees!
Bakari CAPS.jpg

noun_Checkbox_798260.pngGet involved for a better UNC and a better you.

  • Grow your leadership skills, your intellect and your circle of friends by getting involved in something larger than yourself. Loads of opportunities exist on Heel Life.
  • You can also get involved in health through Student Wellness!
    • Attend a health-related event on campus.
    • Connect with Student Wellness or CAPS to provide education and outreach to your student group.
    • Join a Peer Health Organization.
    • Register for a workshop or training.
    • Visit Student Wellness for resources, a piece of fruit, or cup of coffee. On us!

noun_Checkbox_798260.pngFind a system that works for you.

  • Use a planner or an app to stay organized and proactive about your health and well-being.
  • The Learning Center offers amazing resources including test prep, academic coaching, peer tutoring, workshops and a website full of resources (all at no cost!).
  • The Writing Center helps students become stronger, more flexible writers. Work with coaches face-to-face or online at any stage of the writing process, for any kind of writing project. And check out their online resources for tips about many common writing challenges.

We know you want to stay healthy at Carolina, and we are here to help! Reach out if you have questions @UNCHealthyHeels or

Adapted from The Ohio State University

Photos 2 and 3 by UNC Chapel Hill

FAQs about Returning to Campus and COVID-19

UNC students move into their residence halls in preparation for the 2020-21 school year on August 3, 2020, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The best place to get information about COVID-19 requirements is

We know that reading through all of that content can sometimes be confusing. Here’s our take on what’s required and recommended for UNC Students upon returning to campus.

Required for Students:

  • VACCINATION STATUS: Attest to your vaccination status in Connect Carolina. Under the Student Honor Code, you are expected to provide truthful information on your vaccination status, dates, and documentation.
  • TESTING for UNVACCINATED STUDENTS: Unvaccinated students or those who prefer not to disclose their vaccination status must test within 24 hours of arrival in Chapel Hill. Testing is available at the Carolina Union without appt from 9am – 5pm thru Wednesday 8/11 and beginning 8/12 by appointment using HallPass. Unvaccinated students must test weekly throughout the semester.
  • INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL TESTING: All individuals traveling to the US from an international location are required to have a negative COVID-19 viral test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 no more than 3 days before travel.
  • QUARATINE/ISOLATION: Students must follow quarantine and isolation protocols.
    • Not fully vaccinated or choose not to report vaccination status:
      • If you are having symptoms or have been notified as a close contact, you will be required to quarantine and contact Campus Health.
      • If you test positive, you will need to isolate.
    • Fully vaccinated with FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccination
      • You will most likely not be subject to quarantine. You will be subject to isolation if you test positive.
    • Students who live off-campus generally may quarantine or isolate in their off-campus residence unless otherwise directed by a medical provider or health official. Those students residing in on-campus housing, including Granville Towers can visit the Carolina Housing website to find out more about on-campus isolation and quarantine operations. 
  • WEAR A MASK INDOORS: You must wear a face mask over your nose and mouth at all times while inside any University building. You may remove your face mask in private offices, your residence hall room, suite or apartment, and when eating or drinking.

Recommended for Students:

  • GET VACCINATED AGAINST COVID-19: Being vaccinated is the best way you can help make a typical, in-person experience at Carolina this fall and to prevent the spread of the virus. Vaccines are offered at Student Stores Pharmacy from 9 am – 6 pm M-F and Saturdays 11am – 3pm. Additionally, during move-in you can receive your vaccine on Tuesday, August 17th from 4 -7 pm at Hinton James Residence Hall.
  • LIMIT INTERACTIONS: Unvaccinated students should limit unnecessary interactions for 7 days after travel. Vaccinated students should limit interactions if notified as a close contact. Limiting unnecessary interactions means staying in your residence as much as possible, but you can leave to get food or if you require medical attention.
  • TESTING FOR VACCINATED STUDENTS: Free, voluntary asymptomatic testing is available on campus for students. Consider being tested when you return to Chapel Hill, and regularly thereafter to help protect your community from asymptomatic spread.
  • TEST AT CAMPUS HEALTH: Students who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been notified as a close contact should be tested at Campus Health.

When in doubt, ask! You can email or call 919-966-2281 for COVID-19 vaccine and testing questions.

8 Tips for a Healthier College Room

Living in a small space is virtually guaranteed on campus. Residence hall rooms are one of those small spaces – and they also provide connection with other students, resources and groups on campus. One technique to stay healthy on campus is to set up those small spaces for your academic success. Here are our tips to do just that:

Room in residence hall with Carolina gear and calming touches
  1. Minimize stuff. It’s tempting to pack every. single. thing. from your room at home, but resist that urge. Start with the bare essentials and add more later. The more minimalist you can go, the better. You can always bring back what you really miss the next time you visit home.
  2. Maximize storage. Loft your bed so you can fit more things under there. Worried about the height? Bed risers can give your bed just enough boost to give you more storage underneath.
  3. Get your Zzzzs. Bring a black out eye mask and ear plugs. If your roommate has a different sleep schedule than you, you’ll need to deal with it. Always put eye masks on and earplugs in before going to sleep.
  4. Create some calm. Adjust the lighting with lamps (but if you live on campus, not multiple-bulb light fixtures or halogen lamps, those aren’t allowed in UNC housing), white holiday lights, or battery powered candles. Add some calming scent with lavender or diffusers. Incorporate plants into your space such as bamboo.
  5. Decorate. Hang photos or posters that inspire you to fulfill your goals at college using temporary mounts or blue tack removable adhesive. Photos of family and friends can also offer a sense of familiarity. Add color with your bedding and furniture.
  6. Stay organized. The room is small – so have a place for everything and take a few minutes each day to put things in their place. Shoe caddies, extra hangers, under the bed storage, and cloth storage bins all make a difference. And make your bed! It’ll take a minute but will help make your room look more inviting and comfortable.
  7. Snack on foods that nourish you. Residence hall rooms at UNC allow a 6 cubic feet fridge to be used, and larger kitchen areas are available to the community. Ideas for nutrient-dense snacks:
    • Nuts | Seeds | Dried fruits | Fresh fruit | Veggies, especially snackable ones like carrot sticks, celery, snap peas, peppers, edamame | Bars, especially protien- & nutrient-filled ones. Look for few ingredients and words you recognize. | Peanut butter | Hummus | Yogurt | Granola | Oatmeal | Avocado
  8. Communicate. Living with so many people in such close proximity requires good communication. Set up expectations with your roommate right away and revisit as needed. Let your neighbors know when something they do impacts you. Connect with your residence hall staff when you need help.

Suggested packing list focused on your health and wellbeing:


  • Sheets (UNC residence hall mattresses are 36″x6″x80″)
  • Mattress cover
  • Comforter/quilt
  • Bedside caddy
  • Bed pillows
  • Throw/blanket
  • Alarm clock (it can be helpful to turn your phone OFF at night)
  • Earplugs
  • Eye mask


  • Desk accessories
  • Laptop with security cable and sleeve
  • Desk lamp (single bulb, not halogen)
  • Bulletin board, pushpins
  • 3 prong power strip with surge protection and cord fire protection
  • Dry erase board and markers
  • Book light


  • Speakers
  • Headphones/ear buds
  • Floor cushions/backrest
  • Area rug
  • Fan
  • Frames and wall art
  • Blackout window panels
  • Floor lamp (non-halogen, single bulb)
  • Room fragrances (such as aromatherapy)
  • Little white holiday tree lights
  • Battery operated candles
  • Comfy chairs
  • Crate or small table for coffee table
  • White noise machine


  • Shoe storage
  • Stacking drawers
  • Closet organizers
  • Luggage
  • Batteries
  • Purse organizer
  • Hangers
  • Emergency first aid kit
  • Small tool kit
  • Hooks for hanging bathrobes, jackets
  • Drawer organizers
  • Closet curtain/rings/rod (for Hinton James, Craige, Avery, Parker, Teague and Ehringhaus. All other residence halls provide moveable wardrobes with doors)


  • Towels (for your body and for cleaning your room)
  • Washcloths (for your body and for cleaning your room)
  • Laundry basket/hamper
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Shower tote/caddie
  • Hair supplies
  • Robe
  • Slippers
  • Toothbrush and holder
  • Drying rack
  • Soap holder and soap
  • Laundry detergent
  • Hand vacuum
  • Multiple COVID-19 face masks
  • Travel sized hand sanitizer


  • Small fridge (max 2’x3’x1′ or 6 cubic feet)
  • Microwave oven
  • Coffee maker
  • Plates and bowls
  • Glasses, cups and/or mugs
  • Cutlery and utensils
  • Can/bottle opener
  • On the go travel mug
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Bag/chip clips
  • Water pitcher and filters
  • Food storage
  • Lunch bag
  • Toaster, blender, coffee or tea maker and/or air popcorn maker as desired


  • Bike and U-lock
  • Gear for your favorite activities
  • Comfortable shoes to wear while moving yourself around campus

UNC Housing rules to know:

  • NO Candles, incense, fireworks
  • NO Weapons
  • NO Crockpots, instant pots, electric griddles
  • NO Halogen lamps or multi-bulb lamps
  • NO pets except fish
  • NO two-prong household extension cords
  • NO items with exposed heating elements such as hotplates or toaster ovens
  • NO items that exceed 1000 wats of usage

Updated August 2021

How to Live with Roommates…and COVID-19

Your home should feel like a safe space. And yet, most of us have slightly different calculation strategies for risk, so living with roommates this fall may result in times when a roommate’s behavior makes you feel vulnerable to COVID-19. Conversation is the best strategy for conflict – and using the guide below can help clarify expectations and reduce the chances of conflict this semester. 

There are ways to stay healthy and share your living space. You can help protect you, your roommates, and your community by getting vaccinated, wearing your mask indoors when not at home, especially when in crowds, and giving people distance when possible.  

Consider having a conversation – even before you move in – to talk about COVID-19 risks and behaviors. 

Opening question 

  • What are your thoughts about COVID-19 right now?  

We know the list of more detailed questions below can feel overwhelming. Likely many of the questions posed would come up in a more organic conversation about COVID-19. Use this as a guide in whatever ways are helpful to you.

Understand current and anticipated behaviors 

Such as risk reduction strategies, socializing, transportation  

  • What behaviors are you practicing to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission? Specifically… 
    • What are your thoughts on vaccination? 
    • When/where do you wear a mask?  
    • When do you interact with people without a mask and who are those people? What do you know about their precautionary behaviors? What is the setting for these encounters – indoor/outdoor? How long do you typically interact? 
    • Have you attended any large gatherings during the pandemic, and will you this semester?   
    • How frequently do you tend to clean and disinfect your/our space?  
  • What risks do you anticipate this semester? Specifically… 
    • What are activities you can’t avoid no matter what happens with the pandemic – such as work or classrooms?  
    • How will you transport yourself around town and campus?  
    • Do you have plans to travel this semester?  
    • How do you navigate restaurants and bars?   
    • How often do you plan to visit, stay with, or host family, significant other, or friends?  
    • How often do you plan to be home in our shared dwelling? 
  • What additional COVID safety precautions do you practice?  

Get a sense of health needs 

  • Has anyone you know been diagnosed with COVID-19? If so, how does that impact your behavior now?   
  • Are you in a vulnerable population as outlined by the CDC?  

Make a household plan 

  • How will we adapt our space and behaviors to adjust for COVID-19?  
  • Who is allowed inside the residence? How will we handle friends or family who have interest in coming to or gathering at our residence?  
  • How will we transport ourselves around town and campus?  
  • If at least one roommate deems something unsafe, are we all willing to honor that?   
  • What symptoms would indicate to you that one of us needs to have symptomatic COVID-19 testing completed? When would we expect a roommate to quarantine? If one of us tests positive for COVID-19, what will we do?  
  • Under what circumstances will we be willing to quarantine for the benefit of our room/household?  
  • Are there other topics we should discuss (dating, mail pickup, mask disinfecting plan, remembering to take our masks, vaccination booster if/when it becomes available)?  


We, the residents of ___________________ agree to the following from ___(date)_____ to ____(date)____:  

Dwelling visitors – who is allowed into our home, when, in what circumstances, how long:   

Gatherings – hosting, attending, indoor/outdoor, common areas:  

Cleaning – sharing responsibilities, extra disinfection, dishes, laundry: 

Food – sharing, group meals, restaurants, grocery shopping:  

Transportation – how will we get around, car riding with non-roommates:  

Testing – who will be tested and when: details for UNC required and voluntary testing at  

If a roommate is a close contact to a known positive, we will…  

If a roommate tests positive, we will…  

If there is a conflict between these agreements and behavior, we will…  We plan to revisit these agreements on ___(date)____ to review and revise as necessary.  

Signed: ______________ 

When Conflict Arises 

Remember, that conflict is likely to occur even after a conversation like this. When conflict happens, stay calm and: 

  • Express specific observations about a situation or concern rather than your judgments or evaluation. Ex. “I noticed that … We agreed that …”  
  • Disclose your feelings about the situation or concern. Provide a genuine understanding of your emotions and sensations, not your beliefs about what you think others have done to you. Ex. “I felt scared and exposed when…” 
  • Identify what you need or value. Ex. “I really value shared agreements about behavior – especially during a pandemic.” 
  • Request specific actions that would start to meet your needs or support your values. Avoid demanding character changes or stating ultimatums. Ex. “Would you be willing to revisit our agreements together and update them as needed?” 

If your conversation does not go well, you can consult with your RA (if living in a residence hall) or other supportive students or adults for guidance and support.  

Ultimately you cannot control others’ behavior. If your roommate is behaving in a way that you deem unsafe, take steps to help yourself by limiting contact as much as possible, avoiding shared spaces, wearing a mask and asking your roommate to wear a mask in shared spaces. 

This post has been updated for clarity and brevity. Originally posted August 2020, it has been reposted in August 2021.

Get outside! Best nature areas to explore near UNC.

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” -Edward Abbey

The woods and water can be an integral part of your UNC experience -and you don’t have to go far to find them.

The triangle region is full of outdoor spaces to camp, hike, run, and paddle.

Ask any outdoor enthusiast and these spots will be on their list of adventures while at UNC. Explore them! We start with those closest to campus and swirl outward across the state.

Learn more about these spots – and then, go play outside! (pro tip: Don’t feel comfortable adventuring on your own? Check out Carolina Adventures Expeditions! They provide gear, guides and routes for some of these fantastic adventures.) Continue reading

Returning to Campus

Jaylin Pierce sits near the steps of Wilson Library overlooking Polk Place on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Campus life comes with so many benefits! You can interact with such a vibrant, energetic learning community. You can be in spaces that invigorate you. And yet, for many of us, returning to campus comes with a whole lot of stress and anxiety.

When on-campus life was taken away from us at the beginning of the pandemic, many started to see their home as one place where we could feel safe. Some of us might be struggling with the idea of leaving the safety of home to return to such an uncertain environment.

We all are likely thinking in unique ways about returning to campus. We may feel eager to return, ready to socialize, grief for a slower pace, or longing for more time alone.

No matter what you’re feeling, be patient with yourself and others. It’s going to take time to settle in together.

Here are some tips to help make the transition back to campus less stressful.

Where is the stress coming from?

It’s normal to be apprehensive about returning to campus. Re-entry anxiety tends to stem from 2 areas:

  • Safety: People are anxious about unknowingly contracting or spreading COVID-19.
  • Socializing: Over the past year we’ve minimized social interactions which means we may feel a little awkward now when we look people in the eye or need to make small talk.

Start mentally preparing

  • Imagine scenarios you might encounter on campus. This helps you emotionally prepare.
  • Transition slowly if possible. Campus faculty and staff, for example, might go to their office before the official start date. Returning students might visit their primary classroom building or walk down Franklin Street.
  • Prepare your space. Whether it’s your office or your residence – find ways to refresh, clean, organize or otherwise get your space ready for your return.
  • Improve your sleep habits. Start establishing a routine bedtime and to have a healthy sleep schedule in place before returning to campus. Getting enough sleep can buffer you against stress.

Dealing with Safety Concerns

When you have people sharing your space that you know have different commitments to pandemic safety, communication and boundaries can help.

Set the stage by talking to the person about their values around shared spaces and how they propose you work together to create safety for everyone. Listen and ask questions. Use policies or rules to help in the conversation.

During interactions, speak up to clarify your boundaries such as “I’m still social distancing.”

Set yourself up for success by creating physical distance with whatever spaces you can control.

And ultimately – do what you can control to keep yourself safe. You can determine what helps you feel safe – we suggest getting vaccinated, regularly washing / hand sanitizing, and wearing a mask.


Sometimes you won’t have much control over whether you can slowly transition back to campus or whether you just need to arrive one day. You also may or may not have control of a space of your own on campus. Regardless, taking time to reflect can be helpful.

What are you struggling with – is it leaving home, feeling safe, or having a schedule again? Determine the crux of your concerns.

What have you learned during the pandemic that you want to maintain? It might be spending more time outside regularly or moving your body more.

What drew you to join UNC Chapel Hill? What did you love about pre-pandemic times?

What about returning to campus will be helpful to you?

Reach Out for Help

When we feel stressed or anxious, we often start behaving differently. For some people, it may be feeling more irritable and quickly losing patience with those around us. Others may physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches, jaw clenching, neck or back pain, or other symptoms.

Know and look for your own warning signs, and take care of yourself first.

If you need help managing your stress or anxiety – they are causing problems in your life – talk to a mental health professional.

Students have access to CAPS 24/7 or peer support resources.

Employees can access the wellness resources for COVID-19 page on Another important resource is the Employee Assistance Program. The UNC department of psychiatry also has a number of resources.

Adapted from and