For identical twins Heather and Felice Chan ’17, their first year at Bowdoin was accompanied by several common transitional experiences and some unconventional ones. It was their first time not having the same group of friends, living thousands of miles from their hometown of Hong Kong and notably, not sharing a bedroom. 

But for the Chan sisters, like many sibling pairs at Bowdoin, having a brother or sister on campus has made a profound impact on their academic and social experiences. Many siblings note that each other's presence on campus often alleviates transitional homesickness, provides an honest on-campus resource and, ultimately, provides a friend. 

"It's really given me someone to depend on, no matter what—as someone to study with or get meals with," Heather Chan said. 

Another set of identical twins, Coco and Tracey Faber ’16, were accepted, waitlisted and rejected from all of the same colleges but made the decision to continue their education together at Bowdoin. 

"We decided that we didn't have to go to different schools because going to college would be different enough," Tracey Faber said. 

"It's nice coming in and having someone who knows you and who you don't have to explain yourself to. You can just be with them," Coco Faber said.

Although the prospect of attending a small liberal arts college with a sibling was intimidating for some, others approached it with ambivalence and others still with enthusiasm. 

"There are a lot of people who are put off by the idea of going to school with their sibling. They want to have their own experience, and they don't want anything holding them back. But we got along well in our childhood—we still share a room at home," said Matt Netto '16, whose younger brother Mike '18 decided to attend Bowdoin after visiting his brother. 

“We've watched each other grow, and people change, and it's nice to be able to see each other change as time goes on,” said Mike Netto. 

Other younger siblings noted that visiting their older counterpart at Bowdoin while still in high school attracted them to Bowdoin. 

"I definitely came here because [Roya] goes here," said Dante Moussapour '19, whose sister, Roya '17, is currently abroad. "Her being abroad really let me find my own way and figure my own path, but I would definitely say that having a sibling on campus is a fundamental.”

“If I had to choose the three most impactful things first semester, the first two would be sleep and exercise and then having my sister on campus,” added Dante Moussapour. 

Sharing such a small campus is a common worry for many siblings; however, Kyle ’18 and Avery Wolfe ’19 have found that they rarely cross paths. 

“I wanted to let him have his own experience and his own school, and I wanted the same,” said Avery Wolfe. They get breakfast once a week to catch up but always know that they have each other there for support. “I feel like I have a mentor here on campus,” said Avery Wolfe. “I immediately had that, whereas other students had to find that.”

For other siblings, the intertwining of their lives has been difficult to navigate. Sisters Jae Yeon '18 and Jae Min Yoon ’19 share a class of nine people and recently worked together on the Bowdoin Theater Department's production of "Sondheim on Sondheim." Jae Min auditioned for her sister, who was a student director of the show. 

"My assistant director thought I was going to cry because I was so stressed," Jae Yeon Yoon said. "It's really different from sitting at your dinner table. All of a sudden, you're in class with them and seeing them in an academic setting trying to be smart."

The process of individualizing oneself within a diverse college setting is a common struggle amongst many first years. For siblings, and twins even more so, the task can prove even more daunting. 

The Fabers share a major, French and art classes and spots on the cross country team. The Chans live in the same room, both run for the track team and share clothes, friends and expenses. 

The Faber twins said that their lives at Bowdoin overlap significantly beyond just shared interests and activities. It's not uncommon for them to respond to each other's names, say hi to people they've never met and, if a sticky situation calls for it, play the part of the other twin. 

"It can be very unsettling," Tracey Faber said. "We are very visual, and we identify people by what they look like. So when you look like someone else, it's really hard to have a sense of someone as a separate individual if you associate all the qualities of them with the image of them...Sometimes I have days where I'm like, 'You know what? I can't do this today.' I just can't, and so I pretend."

The Chans likewise share many of the same interests and have gravitated towards the same friends and activities. 

“The biggest challenge is individualizing ourselves. I've grown up with a twin my whole life. I grew up with someone by my side who I could compete with. I don't know what it's like not being a twin” said Heather Chan.

Between constantly being mistaken for the other twin by professors and friends alike, the Fabers struggle to make decisions with and without the context of their twin. 

"It's hard sometimes because you feel like you have to make a choice between what you want to do naturally and the thing that you want to do because it will make you different from the other person," Nicole Faber added. "That's uncomfortable sometimes."

For siblings Tess '18 and Luke Trinka ’16, attending Bowdoin together has provided another lens through which to view not only the Bowdoin experience but also their own relationship and identities. 

"It's interesting how relationships are often so tied to place, and I think the extent to which the way we related to each other was a result of being in Oak Park, where we're from," said Luke Trinka. 

"After she made the decision, I thought it would be a really cool opportunity to deepen a relationship with a sibling outside of a home space, and I think that's largely what's happened.”
Inside the new context of the Bowdoin bubble and out of the comfort of home, their relationship was tested in new ways. “That's where relationships can take on a new texture and depth—when you're outside of a familiar environment,” said Luke Trinka. 

No matter sister, brother or twin, Bowdoin siblings often cherish the chance to share their college experience with a family member. 

"When you have certain experiences at Bowdoin, they acquire a certain meaning here,” Luke Trinka said. “But then you leave school, and some of that meaning gets stripped of its color… It's nice to have someone else who gets it.”