Bowdoin might have been the best thing to ever happen to me. Honestly, I said that in a job interview a few months ago but it’s true. Growing up in the cultural wasteland that is South Florida, I never really fit in. Florida felt hot and vain and materialistic and old. Fulfilling my cultural stereotype of the overeager and overly anxious suburban girl who thinks she’s “alternative” and “special,” I spent the entirety of senior year of high school wishing that I could leave the humidity of South Florida for a liberal arts college with the kind of artsy and intellectual crowd that was so different than everyone I knew and had ever met. I set timers for 11:11 every day and every night, just to make sure some greater power knew how much I really wanted “The Perfect Liberal Arts Experience."

Bowdoin the Reality was even better than Bowdoin the Dream. I ate sundaes every Sunday and Wednesday and took classes in philosophy and went streaking at Farley Field House and fell in love with a boy and with my friends and with myself. Sometimes I cried to my mom on the floor of my dorm room and stressed about deadlines and had Snapchat-induced FOMO. Even then, I loved Bowdoin and I loved how it let me grow.

Bowdoin quickly became more than just an Institution of Higher Learning; it was symbolic of my entry into adulthood. So when my younger sister decided she was following me to Bowdoin, I mostly just panicked. I was working to become my own person, but now I was going to have to do it under the watchful eye of my little sister.

Our parents, of course, were thrilled about the idea of us going to college together. They constantly reminded me that I would have someone to sit with at Passover Seders in Main Lounge and take care of me when I got sick, or was more likely being a hypochondriac and had a “concussion.” The eight hours it took to get home wouldn’t be so unbearable when I had Molly to share candy and magazines with and won’t it just be so nice to see your sister walking by?

Molly and I are two halves of the same whole. We share a mom and a dad and a bedroom. Our birthdays are five days apart, even though the doctors thought we would share one. We drove to school together every day, we drove home together every day. We went to summer camp together and shared a closet and even sometimes deodorant. I talked and talked and talked, Molly listened. We fought a lot, mostly because I tried to steal her clothes. Sometimes it escalated to physical violence, but that was pretty rare.

To say the least, I had mixed feelings about sharing Bowdoin with my sister. I worried that when she set up her dorm room, she would unpack parts of me that I was trying to leave at home. 

I worried that she would be friends with my friends and watch me DFMO and maybe see me drunk. I worried that she’d think I didn’t have my life together (of course she would, I didn’t…) or tell my parents the embarrassing things I did. Most of all, I worried that she wouldn’t like me in my new habitat.

Bowdoin felt too small for both of us to figure our shit out.

So I went abroad, to take some time for myself and let Molly get her bearings here without me. The distance was mostly good for us. Molly could choose her classes and her friends and her life without my (unwanted) input. While I posed in front of the Duomo and stuffed my face with gelato, I would loan Bowdoin to Molly so that she could carve out her own Bowdoin, under the pretense that it would still be my place when I returned. 

My transition back to Bowdoin in the spring felt strange, mostly because it felt more like Molly’s than it did like mine. Unlike a lot of first years who stumble through their first semester, Molly flourished. My little sister wasn’t so little anymore. I had been so obsessed with the idea that she would impede on my turf, not let me “Become Who I Am,” that I failed to see that I was the one hovering over her.

Even though it took us a while to learn how to coexist, having Molly here has been one of the best parts of my Bowdoin experience. We share friends and get dinners sometimes and FaceTime our grandparents together. We fight about whose job it is to book flights home and where to eat when our parents visit. We laugh about our mom’s failed attempts to watch us on the Thorne Live Feed. We bring each other snacks in the library. Now, we live close enough that I can see the light on in her room every night when I go to sleep. It’s not the same as the pillow talk we had as kids, but it’s close enough.

Rachel Snyder is a member of the Class of 2016.