Till college do us part

June 9, 2011, 12:13 p.m. | By Allison Daitch | 12 years, 11 months ago

Twins grow up being a package deal but go to different colleges to find their own identity

Despite all of life's hardships, relationship struggles and all of the stress that comes with high school, there are a rare few people who go home and always have someone their own age there for them. Those lucky few have someone who can sympathize with them and who is there every step of the way; someone with the same genes.

All twins have the unique experience of growing up with someone in their household the same age as them, which brings both benefits and challenges. However, no challenge compares to the life-changing day when twins separate, usually for college, and are given the opportunity to develop themselves as an individual, instead of a package deal.

Similar, yet different

Fraternal twins Adrienne and Zoe Jackson are looking at very different colleges, mainly because their interests are so contrasting. Photo courtesy of Molly Ellison.

While twins often grow up to be constantly compared and labeled as "the twins," the experience of fraternal twins is quite different from identical twins. Because fraternal twins do not share the same DNA, they typically only look as similar as any other siblings. Juniors Adrienne and Zoe Jackson are fraternal twins who participate in separate activities – Zoe is interested in the arts and Adrienne enjoys sports. Zoe finds it helpful that she and Adrienne don't do everything together and have their own lives. "It helps to have our own thing, I can't imagine being exactly the same," she says. "We have our own friends and do different activities, so it gives us some freedom."

Zoe and Adrienne plan on going to separate colleges to experience the independence of college. "I don't want to go to the same school [as Zoe] because college is about independence," Adrienne says. "It would not be healthy and it might actually bring us closer." Coincidentally, Zoe is looking at schools in the North for academics, whereas Adrienne is looking at colleges for sports in the South.

But since they have gone to school together all their lives, Zoe and Adrienne agree that being twins keeps them motivated to work hard since they are constantly compared to each other. "Zoe motivates me because she is such a good student. When she does well it makes me want to do well," Adrienne says. "It gets annoying sometimes, but if I'm going to be compared to anyone, I'm glad it's Zoe because she's a great person."

One of a kind

Identical twins Jeanne and Lauren Jarvis-Gibson's favorite part of being twins is being able to sing and play music with each other. Photo courtesy of Jeanne and Lauren Jarvis-Gibson.

Identical twins not only face most of the challenges of fraternal twins, but they also face their own set of challenges, especially when it comes to finding their own identity. Since identical twins share the same DNA and look extremely alike, it's even more difficult for them to be seen as individuals and not just one half of a whole. These struggles are prominent in the lives of seniors Jeanne and Lauren Jarvis-Gibson who are not always referred to by their names in the hallways. "We are called the twins instead of our individual names which can be annoying," Lauren says. "Just because we have the same DNA, doesn't mean we have the same mind." Jeanne has similar experiences in the hallways at Blair. "People don't really see us as separate people. I am seen as 'the twin,' not as Jeanne," she says.

After going to school together their whole lives, Jeanne and Lauren will be separating in the fall when Jeanne goes to University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and Lauren heads to Towson University. Jeanne says she has always wanted to go to a different college than her sister and, although the split will be difficult, staying in the same state will make the transition smoother. "I can finally be my own person and get more independence," Jeanne says, "However, it will be a big adjustment and I really will miss her. But she won't be too far away."

Jeanne and Lauren share the same group of friends and do many activities with each other, unlike the Jacksons', and they both agree that their favorite activity is to sing and write songs together. "Singing together is my favorite part of being a twin," Lauren says. Jeanne feels the same way and enjoys sharing those experiences with her sister. "I love to sing and perform with her. We write songs together and play guitar. We both love performing and it's really an amazing experience," she says.

Separation brings togetherness

After separating for college, many twins still manage to keep a close connection, even with newfound friends and independence. Former Blazers and identical twins Rose and Julia Wynn graduated Blair in 2010 and have both finished their freshman year at separate colleges.

The metamorphosis of twins through the years.  Photo courtesy of Emily Hu.

Rose attends the University of Richmond in Virginia and Julia goes to Denison University in Ohio. Growing up, Rose and Julia were extremely close and shared the same friends all throughout school; they were frequently labeled the "Wynn Twins." "The whole experience of being together for practically our entire lives encouraged us to pursue different paths that would allow us to better develop our individual interests and identities without the constraints of society's twin assumptions," Rose says.

When deciding on colleges, Rose and Julia wanted to avoid going to the same college, although their individual choices possessed some similarities. Since attending different colleges many states away, Rose and Julia have had time to explore new interests and themselves as individuals. "The constant comparisons and grouping of twins as one person are perspectives that a lot of identical twins face, which make it difficult for them to develop their own unique and distinct identity," Rose says. However, since their separation, Julia has had many new experiences which are both beneficial and difficult to adjust to. "I've found that I've become much more comfortable experiencing things on my own and taking leaps without someone else by my side," Julia says.

Attending different colleges hasn't diminished Rose and Julia's close relationship and when they reconnect, they find that it's as if they were never apart. "When we see each other again, it's as if nothing has changed. So being separate hasn't had any negative effects; it's only showed us what we were missing all these years!" Rose says. Julia also adds that being apart has caused a different part of their relationship to develop since they have new experiences to share with each other.

Imagining stereotypical situations – such as being the twins that spend their whole lives together, end up marrying another set of twins and living next to each other – influenced the Wynn's decision to separate at college. "It's just the opportunity to be in an environment that will view us each as individuals, which is something we'd never truly experienced before," Rose says.

After spending a year apart, Rose and Julia have still stayed very close and remained in near constant contact with each other through the school year. "We're maintaining a close relationship while still letting ourselves be more like separate individuals," Julia says. "I definitely feel as if there's a very important part of her life that I'm no longer a part of, but I'm so happy that it's that way. It was high time that we lived life a little more separately."

These Blazer twins are always there for each other, through thick and thin. But when they do reach that time in their lives to split apart and discover the world for themselves, they hopefully will find a world they didn't know existed. "I think that was something we were both craving; to have our own separate experiences all to ourselves, not having to share everything," Julia says.

Tags: twins

Allison Daitch. "Are you a mod or a rocker?" "No, I'm a mocker." I'm Allison, a.k.a. Allie. I love The Office, How I Met Your Mother, Seinfeld and Harry Potter. I could live off of Cosi TBMs and Signature Salads, with the occasional Quattro Formaggio pizza thrown … More »

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