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The start of the school year is an exciting time for many students—especially college freshmen. It brings the opportunity to meet new friends, try new things and develop a previously unknown sense of independence.

But officials at UT—like those at other colleges—know that the transition into college life often brings feelings of anxiety or homesickness. Paul McAnear, director of UT’s Student Counseling Center, says that homesickness is a common experience for many students and notes that the transition can vary a lot from person to person. However, he offers these general tips for coping with feelings of homesickness:

Stay in touch with family and friends back home – Cell phones and social media make staying in contact easy, but try to limit it to once a day so you begin to adjust to being on your own.

Engage yourself – Getting involved on campus helps you make new friends and helps you to focus on what’s happening on campus rather than wondering what’s going on back home.

Stick around on weekends – A trip home to visit family members and friends can be a much needed chance to relax and unwind. However, try to limit your visits if possible. Frequent trips home may actually worsen the stress of adjusting to campus.

Take care – Meeting new people and experiencing new things is fun but can also be exhausting. Now that you’re on your own, no one is telling you to eat a nutritious meal or to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Take care of yourself by getting eight hours of sleep and eating a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables. These good habits will help keep you healthy, boosting your mood and making it harder to feel homesick.

Stay Positive – Since the adjustment period can be both physically and emotionally exhausting, it is important to develop a positive mindset and refrain from self-judgment in order to allow yourself to enjoy your time here at UT.

Don’t change everything — College is a time to try out new and unfamiliar activities. However, when you’re feeling homesick, it’s helpful to engage in a favorite hobby or participate in an activity you enjoyed in high school. Doing something familiar will make you feel more at ease in your new home.

Ask for help —While being homesick is common for many college students, feelings that don’t improve or get worse should be addressed. “Talking things over with someone you trust is often the best medicine for homesickness”, McAnear said. “UT is a great community where everyone is looking to feel welcomed and at home. So reach out to a friend, an advisor or a family member and you’ll often get what you need. But if you get stuck, stop in at the Counseling Center during drop in hours and speak to professional counselor and we can usually help you get back on track.”

Contact the UT Counseling Center by calling (865) 974-2196 or emailing counselingcenter@utk.edu or stopping by 1800 Volunteer Blvd.