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Davis, California

Monday, May 20, 2024

College with a sibling


Students describe pros, cons of attending college with siblings

Right before the first week of Fall Quarter, Sneha Shastri could feel the anxiety welling inside her. She had experienced a particularly rough morning thinking about what her new life as a UC Davis student would be like. Later that afternoon, she received a text message that told her to look outside. When Sneha peered out the window there was Shruti Shastri, her older sister, with Dutch Bros in hand and a smile on her face.

In fact, Sneha, a third-year transfer neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, is no stranger to the UC Davis campus. Shruti, who is almost four years older, also attended UC Davis for her undergraduate career and is now a second-year student at the UC Davis Veterinary School.

“This was like the only campus [I’d visited],” Sneha said. “I’ve visited so many times when she was an undergrad, and like we went to Picnic Day together, the Whole Earth Festival. We had done so many things.”

Despite her familiarity with the UC Davis campus, Sneha made the decision to come, and admits she is happy with her decision. Davis practically a second home to the sisters. Having gone to school together for their whole lives, attending college with each other was not a strange experience.

“I think we’ve always been pretty close,” Shruti said. “We’ve gone to school together so many times like elementary school. [When] I used to be in fifth grade and she was in first, I used to go to her classroom and help out and we used to teach them how to read. And we went kind of to the same high school as well when we were living in India together.”

The two sisters spent their childhood living in Southern California before moving to India with their parents in 2005. They moved back to the Sacramento area seven years ago when Shruti began her freshman year at UC Davis as a biology major.

“We lived in Mumbai, so it’s a very metropolitan, big, loud city,” Shruti said. “[Davis] was a super quiet cow town, and so it took awhile to get used to that and the pace of Davis. But I absolutely love Davis now. It took a couple years, but we’ve been here for so long.”

Even though the sisters don’t live together currently, they get a lot of face-to-face time. Shruti lives at home in Sacramento and commutes to school. Sneha lives in Davis but visits home in Sacramento practically every weekend.

“I’ll see her during the week sometimes too,” Shruti said. “Since she has a place here, if I have a big test the next day or something then I can always crash at her house and sleep over and study all night, that kind of stuff .”

Having a sister in town means there are perks for Sneha, too, including rides to school and study breaks at In-N-Out.

“The good part is that if I forgot something at home, then I can ask my sister to just bring it for me,” Sneha said. “Or my mom will make me food and she’ll send it through my sister.”

Going to school with a sibling means more than just crashing on couches and free rides to school, though. It’s the perfect opportunity for Shruti to pass down her wisdom and experiences as a UC Davis undergraduate, like what classes to take and which teachers to avoid.

Another example Shruti notes is that Sneha will soon be studying abroad, something Shruti never got to experience herself. Yet despite the bit of sibling jealousy she felt, Shruti pushed her younger sister to go for it when she was feeling unsure.

“I was able to push her to do that because I felt like I had missed out on that experience as an undergrad,” Shruti said. “So I felt that, [and] by just being here, whatever experiences that I had, I could help her to make the best out of her experience.”

Another set of UC Davis siblings that find support in one another are twin brothers Jordan and Preston Leung. Preston graduated last spring and majored in biomedical engineering while Jordan is currently taking a fifth year to finish up his degree in mechanical engineering.

“We were pretty close [growing up],” Preston said. “I mean you hear stories about twins being really close or not close, but I think we were the pretty close-type. We did everything together, we had very similar interests, similar activities, sports, everything.”

Although practically joined at the hip through a lot of their lives, one of the first actions that one brother took to distinguish his identity from the other was by doing choir in high school. As freshmen, the brothers decided to take another step in the direction of independence and chose to dorm separately. Incidentally, they both ended up only a building across from each other in Tercero.

“I think that was when it was starting to deviate a little bit, just because we were around different people,” Jordan said. “I would hang with my floormates a little more and he would hang with his floormates, but then we still knew each other and would still intermingle. I would come home and go to my dorm and I wouldn’t see Preston, and that was very weird for me.”

Once enrolled at UC Davis, both brothers quickly switched out of their original majors of food science and environmental science. They both decided on biomedical engineering in order to pursue a pre-med track. About halfway through undergraduate, though, Jordan realized that a pre-med track wasn’t for him.

“[We were] taking similar classes and [I was] seeing certain subjects that would light me up and certain subjects that wouldn’t light me up, and those that would light Preston up and those that wouldn’t,” Jordan said. “I remember he would talk a lot about [physiology] and for me I was like ‘I mean it’s cool’ but I never really got too into it. That struck me because I was like ‘I’m pre-med’ but I wasn’t so into it. And we both did an HRI internship, which is a health related internship, at the UC Davis Medical Center, and I remember I just really didn’t like it at all.”

Growing up, Preston was a little more sure in himself than his younger brother of 13 minutes. Despite having a little more independence and passion, he felt more comfortable with Jordan at his side. And when they were both finding their groove in college, both brothers began to notice their individuality more than ever.

“I was like ‘I think I know what I want’ and just kind of [went] for it, and then I think I saw Jordan as someone who would affirm that, being that person that would be with me, but I wouldn’t feel necessarily dependent,” Preston said. “I would feel more like ‘oh it’s good to have Jordan next to me.’ So seeing him kind of go in his direction, it kind of was like ‘oh Jordan has his own thing, oh that makes sense.’ I didn’t realize that, and I don’t know why it didn’t really come to mind in that way until college.”

While Jordan and Preston may have found different interests in their college journeys, they still found that one of the most valuable aspects of going to school with a sibling is automatic access to a wider network of friends.

“[Your network] gets larger, so the people that know Preston, will eventually know me because I’m his twin brother, so that’s kind of nice,” Jordan said. “A lot of people [are] like ‘oh that’s Preston’s friend’ and someone’s like ‘oh are you Preston?’ like they’ll mistake me for another twin, it happens all the time.”

In fact, Preston claims that when he was attending UC Davis, not a day would go by without someone confusing the two. Preston compared the experience of going to school with a twin brother like going to school with a clone.

“We share a lot of similar friendships, and I think that really helps us and when he knows someone, I know that person more deeply because of that,” Preston said. “It’s a very intimate connection that we both get to share with people.”

With such proximity, though, comes the tendency to compare. Jordan claims it becomes easy to compare himself to his brother because their lives are so overlapped.

“I think the comparison thing is really key because sometimes you feel like when you go to college you want to explore and find your own thing, but we’ve always been together,” Preston said. “I think the best way is to encourage each other, but sometimes if you’re afraid, you kind of look at each other and don’t take that step of exploring or discovering your own thing. [It’s] more comfortable to do it together.”

While there are some difficult aspects about going to school with your sibling, there are plenty of advantages as well. One thing that the Shastri sisters and Leung brothers both have in common, though, is a desire to forever stay close and supportive of their sibling even after college.

“I think that’s the hope,” Jordan said. “I would love to be a part of what Preston’s doing […] I want to be able to be a huge support for him and what he’s doing [in his future].”



Written by: Marlys Jeane — features@theaggie.org


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