College is a big deal. And to the 17 year old high school senior that I was, it was the ultimate testament to my independence. Like any teenager, I wanted to prove to the world and to myself that I could live on my own and be a responsible adult. When I finally decided on the University of California, Berkeley, as my home for the next four years, I was ready to explore uncharted territory…except said territory had already been partially mapped out for me. Some of the first reactions I received from those who knew both my sister and me were “With your sister? How sweet!” and “That’s so nice that you’ll be together. You won’t have to worry as much!” (as if college would be a breeze just because someone else has already experienced it) Needless to say, that wasn’t quite the reaction I’d been hoping to hear.
Of course I was excited to be able to see my sister more often again; in the three years she had been away, I missed her a lot. But in all honesty, I was concerned that being on the same campus as my sister would cause me to become too dependent on her. Now, it’s become clear to me that I had nothing to worry about, even if a small part of me always knew that.
First of all, I always have a place to go. If there’s an emergency or if I’ve had a shit day, my sister’s always there as a shoulder to lean on. And as I learned very quickly in my first few weeks of college, phone calls and physical presence are two different things. Even though I’m away from my closest friends (with my two best friends both on the opposite coast), I can count on my very first and very best friend: my sister. As long as I’m willing to make the journey to her apartment, I can cry, relax, or study with her and just escape from endless social obligations. And while I definitely depend on her for emotional stability, I’ve found that the distance between us is far enough to prevent the stunting of my own personal growth.
My sister and I are in two very different majors and live on opposite sides of a large campus. Some people asked me if I would live with my sister in order to save the cost of room and board, but I actually chose to live in the Units in order to be far away. I knew that if I lived in the residential halls near my sister’s apartment I would rely on her way too much, so she and I agreed that some distance would be better. And honestly, it’s probably one of the best decisions I made. Not only do I have fabulous roommates, but seeing her is a special occasion and getting to catch up with her is something I look forward to more than anything.
Above all, the greatest perk of having my sister on the same campus on me is in the growth of our personal relationship. Growing up with a sister three and a half years my senior meant that I always respected her, whether it was due to the age difference or her actual ability to be a freaking amazing person. But I was surprised (though in hindsight, perhaps I shouldn’t have been) to realize that the respect is now mutual. Not to say that it wasn’t always mutual; but rather, my sister and I are now, in a sense, peers. And as of a few days ago, we’re both legal adults. But even before my 18th birthday, she treated me like one. Rather than feeling coddled, I am grounded in the strength of our relationship as sisters, friends, and now peers at the same university. I have the great blessing of enjoying the independence that college has granted me with my greatest role model, guide, and best friend by my side. And because I know that my sister is reading this, let me just say: I love ya, sis!