Living in Chapel Hill

Choosing a graduate school is more than just choosing a good research environment, you are choosing your home for the next 4-6 years. Chapel Hill and the surrounding area have a lot to offer graduate and professional students. Read below for more information about what life outside the lab is like for BBSP students.

Graduate students at UNC enjoy all the benefits of general campus life including access to the Student Health and Counseling Services, Student Legal Services, UNC recreation centers, discounted art and theater shows and free access to most  on-campus sporting events. UNC has several libraries on campus, including the Health Sciences Library, which offers study rooms for group work as well as several classes to assist students in literature-based research and bioinformatics tools.

There are many opportunities to get involved with student organizations including the Graduate and Professional Student Federation (GPSF), the student government body that represents graduate students at UNC. GPSF also sponsors community engagement and professional development activities across campus.  Additional resources are available for international students through the Office of International Students and Scholars and the Writing Center.

UNC’s campus is situated in a diverse and thriving area known as the Research Triangle.  The Triangle is composed of  Research Triangle Park, the largest research park in the U.S. with over 170 companies,  the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Duke University, and North Carolina State Universities, and their adjacent communities.The area is a hub for innovation and business development and as a result, the surrounding towns Raleigh and Cary rank consistently in the top 5 for metropolitan growth. All three universities and the neighboring life sciences and technology companies enjoy research and development partnerships.  The US EPA has a campus in RTP and the NIEHS is headquartered here. Many researchers from both agencies are joint faculty members in UNC departments, opening up the opportunity for UNC students to work in government labs for their graduate training.
Most graduate students live off campus in Chapel Hill or the nearby towns of Carrboro and Durham.  The cost of living in the area is very affordable and housing rentals in all three towns are typically easy to find (a partial listing of neighboring apartment communities is provided here).  While most students prefer to rent, about 20% of students purchase a residence during graduate school .  Those who wish to live on their own are able to find affordable housing without a roommate.
Commuting is made easy and affordable by the free-to-ride Chapel Hill Transit buses which have routes between all the major living communities and UNC Campus.  The Triangle Transit Authority also provides bus access to the larger Triangle area.  Many students bike to campus, and Carrboro and Chapel Hill rank among the state’s top bike friendly towns.
Regularly rated in the top best places to live, Chapel Hill is a student friendly town.  Off campus activity is centered around Franklin Street, the main commerce area situated on the edge of UNC campus that has everything from upscale restaurants, a wine bar and an art gallery, to grungy, but delicious, late night eateries and bars, Franklin Street is as diverse as the UNC community it serves.  Next-door to Chapel Hill, the town of Carrboro is an open-minded and diverse community home to Weaver Street Market Co-Op Grocery, a local brewery Steel String and one of the state’s premier live music venues Cat’s Cradle.  Just down the road in Hillsborough is the popular Maple View Country Store where locals often get away to enjoy fresh ice cream.
About a 20 minute drive (or accessible by transit bus), Durham was recently named the “South’s Tastiest Town” by Southern Living Magazine. Durham has a growing economy centered around food, local brews, and the arts and is home to Duke University’s beautiful Sarah P. Duke Gardens and a local baseball team, the Durham Bulls.  Durham also has a thriving arts community and attracts major artists and Broadway shows to the Durham Performing Arts Center.  For those who enjoy running and biking, Durham provides access to the American Tobacco Trail, which will soon connect the entire Triangle through beautiful trails.  A little farther from Chapel Hill, Raleigh offers even more diversions for students when they get away from lab.  Student favorites include the Raleigh Symphony, The North Carolina State Fair, Artsplosure, or a Carolina Hurricanes hockey game.
UNC and the BBSP welcome students with children and believe student-parents can be incredibly successful in graduate school.  The Triangle area is a great place to raise a family with some of the best school districts in North Carolina.  There are many family-friendly activities around the area including the Durham Museum of Life and Science, Marbles Kid’s Museum, family programming at the NC Botanical Gardens, Kidzu Children’s Museum, and excellent parks and recreation systems.  As a student parent you have access to the UNC Student Parent Association which advocates for the unique needs of student parents and serves as a connection to local childcare, parenting, health care and other resources.   Additionally, UNC makes available to students a financial assistance program to help with the cost of child care.