Have you ever parted ways with a classmate as they walk into the library, only to see them three minutes later sitting in AJ’s? Have you ever tried to talk to someone from your Western Heritage class, but get confused when they act like they’ve never met you before? It’s not bilocation. It’s not amnesia. It’s twins.
I sat across from five sets of twins at Hillsdale, eager to hear their unique perspectives as they opened up about the joys and struggles that come with being a twin. Woven through each story were common themes of closeness, shared interests, and at times a desire to find individuality; but above all, lifelong friendship.
Matthew and Noah Schleusener
For sophomores Matthew and Noah Schleusener, having a twin is like having a built-in best friend.
“I don’t remember this, but apparently I learned to talk before he did, so I translated for him for, I don’t know, maybe a year, because he relied on that,” Matthew said. “He relied on me to be like, ‘Noah wants milk.’”
Noah chimed in, laughing, “Apparently I would say ‘milt.’”
Now that they are in college, they said they have loved being able to always count on the other person to be there.
“The biggest advantage is that you never have to struggle with loneliness,” Matthew said. “I’ve never had to seek out a best friend. I have one. Making other friends is awesome and I love it, but it seems like other people can really struggle with it and I haven’t been put in that situation.”
Although the two are genetically identical, a complication in the womb caused them to look more like similar siblings than like identical twins. However, they said they still get mistaken for one another all the time.
“‘Matthew’ is almost like a second name,” Noah said. “If I hear someone say ‘Matthew’ in my general direction, I will assume they’re talking to me.”
Apart from sharing the same genes, they share practically everything else, whether that be the same room, the same video games, or even the same job. Matthew said one of the few things they don’t share is a class schedule.
“We’ve read all the same things, we’ve watched all the same things, we’ve played all the same things, so if I can reference something really obscure and he’ll know what I’m talking about, we can make jokes that work with one another,” Noah said. “We actually do end up making a kind of fun comedic duo sometimes.”
“So much of your dynamic is built in,” Matthew said. “The longest I’ve been away from Noah is five days, so as a result our entire dynamic socially is built on each other. Learning to operate by myself is kind of weird and takes a lot of adjustments.”
“Normally there would be a social pressure to be different from your twin, but we were homeschooled,” Noah said. “So maybe we are more similar than most twins would be.”
The two said that while they enjoy being roommates and attending Hillsdale together, they probably won’t end up in the same city. They said if they did, it would only be by chance.
“I think it’ll be pretty rough when we do split up eventually,” Matthew said. “We’ll probably do different things after Hillsdale.”
“No,” Noah joked. “You’ll become a pastor too and we’ll pastor the same congregation.”
Bryanna and Elyse Vitale
Although college brought Bryanna and Elyse Vitale closer together, their earliest memories are of the competitive rivalry they shared as children.
“We fought over who learned to walk first,” Bryanna said. “Elyse could only crawl backwards and I could only crawl forwards and so she was always crying because she couldn’t keep up with me.”
Elyse said growing up they had to share everything, and share evenly.
“In elementary school, our mom would get a pack of markers for the school year and we’d be all excited but then we’d have to split our colors in half,” Elyse said. “One of us would get the ugly colors and one of us would get the pretty colors. They’d be like ‘draw a tree,’ and I’d be like, ‘Oh, I don’t have the green. My sister has the green and she’s in the other room.”
Bryanna said apart from giving her a person to rely on, being a twin also comes with some perks.
“Obviously I love having her with me most of the time, but also it’s fun,” Bryanna said. “When we were ten and got our nails done for the first time, we got to cut in line so we could sit next to each other.”
The two said they hoped they would go to college together, and they were very grateful to have both made it into Hillsdale. Since starting at Hillsdale last year, the two said they have become more appreciative of one another.
“We’re very close now,” Elyse said. “College brought us together. We used to fight everyday but we don’t really fight now. When we came here it was kind of a hard transition but then we did it together and we both had each other. We always were hugging each other and saying ‘I love you,’ which is something we never did until we came here.”
“We started caring more about each other and appreciating each other,” Bryanna said.
Now sophomores, the two have made many memories here at Hillsdale, including pranking people who get them mixed up.
“We play a little trick,” Bryanna said. “If someone messes our names up several times, eventually we just purposely trade names.”
“When people know us for a long time and they keep mixing us up, I’ll be like, ‘Yeah I’m Bryanna and that’s Elyse,’” Elyse said.
“And then we get everyone else to play along. And the next day we’ll switch again. That’s our favorite game,” Bryanna said while the two laughed in tandem.
Bryanna and Elyse said that being twins has blessed them each with someone they can always relate to.
“Because we’ve always been together our entire lives down to within three minutes, and we’ve always been at the same point in our lives, whenever something happens in our family we always have the same point of view on it,” Elyse said. “When we look back on it, we feel the same way about these important things.”
Bryanna and Elyse said they hope to continue living close to one another even after their time at Hillsdale.
“That’s the dream,” Elyse said. “If we aren’t married fast after college we’d love to live together until we’re married. We would love to live in the same town for the rest of our lives and be next door neighbors.”
Sydney and Shelby Tone
Juniors Sydney and Shelby Tone said one of their funniest childhood memories as twins happened at a 4H camp, which they said is a program that develops kids through activities like knitting, animal raising, and photography. They laughed as they retold their capture-the-flag strategy, which was to simply pretend to be the twin on the opposing team.
“She was in our jail and I figured most people probably wouldn’t tell us apart,” Sydney said. “I crossed the line in the sand and turned around so it looked like I was on her team.”
Being a twin in college, they said, has been a lot easier than it was when they were growing up. As English majors, they said it’s helpful having a twin in some of the same classes.
“If we happen to be in the same class, we know we have a reliable person who can be a study buddy partner,” Sydney said.
To help their professors and friends, Sydney said she will often give tips of ways to tell her and Shelby apart.
“When we’re in the same class, we’ll usually sit on different sides of the room and we don’t change seats so that way the professor can get used to where we are and recognize us better that way,” Sydney said. “Shelby wears her hair slightly differently; she braids it more than I do.”
“People say that I tend to wear clothes that are more blue, but I still think that’s inaccurate,” Shelby said laughing, while wearing a blue shirt.
Though Sydney and Shelby have some distinguishing differences, they said they still share many of the same interests.
“We both love animals, and we are both Seattle Seahawks fans,” Sydney said.
“We’re both involved in Equip Ministries, and we go to the same church,” Shelby said. “We don’t share everything. I think we have slightly different favorite colors.”
Sydney and Shelby said while developing their own identities can be challenging, they still love when people put in effort to get to know them individually.
“People tend to remember us, at least as a unit, because there aren’t many pairs of twins on campus,” Sydney said. “We get remembered more as ‘the Tone twins,’ instead of Sydney and Shelby as individual people. That’s one of the biggest struggles.”
“As people get to know us more they discover that we’re rather different,” Shelby said. “I really appreciate when people put in the time to get to know us.”
For Shelby, the best part of being a twin is the connection between their minds.
“Sydney can often finish my sentences and vice versa, in response to the same stimulus. We often come to similar conclusions and can guess what the other is thinking or will think or will act,” Shelby said. “We can put ourselves into each other’s minds to some extent.”
Sydney said the best part of being a twin was always having a close friend to be there for her.
“If I’m going to dinner and don’t know if anyone will be there, I can text Shelby and at the very least we can go together,” Sydney said. “It’s nice having a companion and a person who you know so well.”
Megan & Catherine Draghiciu
Freshmen Megan and Catherine Draghiciu said they have always had a great friendship with one another, even from a young age.
“Our parents like to tell us when we were little we made up our own language of gibberish, and had conversations in gibberish,” Megan said.
When it came time for college, the two said it was by chance they ended up going to Hillsdale together.
“Our parents always had the idea we would go to the same place and that was their wish,” Catherine said. “I’m very grateful we went through with that. We’ve been so close our whole lives that it would’ve been so different to be apart and it would’ve been very sad, actually.”
“It just happened that Hillsdale was the best choice for the both of us and we got to go together,” Megan said.
Although they didn’t originally plan to go to the same college, they said they enjoy sharing their college experience with one another.
“It doesn’t feel different than it did going to high school,” Megan said. “We have the same general group of friends. We try to do as much as we can together but we don’t have any classes together so we spend a lot of time in Penny’s or AJ’s together studying. We’re not roommates and we’re not in the same hall so when we do spend time together, it’s a lot more intentional and it’s a lot better. It’s fun.”
The two said going to the same school has made the transition to college much easier.
“In a time of change you always know there’s that one person you can fall back on and you always have a best friend,” Catherine said.
Megan nodded and said, “You have consistency and you’re never going to be alone.”
The Draghicius have an open mind as to whether or not they’ll continue living close to one another after college.
“I don’t know if we necessarily would be in the same place, but definitely within driving distance,” Megan said.
“I’m not going to plan on it specifically,” Catherine said. “But if it happens, it happens, and it probably will.”
Adam and Paul Lindauer
“One of us was in trouble and ran up to the top of the stairs,” Adam said. “Our parents came up and we said that the other one was in the other room. ‘I’m Adam, Paul did it and Paul went that way! I’m not Paul!’ It was a classic.”
Freshmen Adam and Paul Lindauer said their childhood was at times competitive, but at age 13 they decided to put their differences behind them and become good friends.
Once they started at Hillsdale, they said they requested to be in different dorms but wound up being put in the same hall. Since then, they have experienced their fair share of mix-ups.
“The first week I met so many people because they thought I was Adam,” Paul said. “He had this really extroverted first week and met so many people and then I met a bunch of people because they were like ‘Hey Adam!’”
Have they ever intentionally pretended to be the other twin?
“April Fool’s, every year,” Adam said. “We always got away with it too. We try to limit it to that just because it’s hard enough already.”
The two said although they were often confused for one another in high school, they think Hillsdale students care more about telling the difference between them.
“I think that’s just because kids are so smart and care so much about that kind of thing here,” Adam said.
“I think it’s specifically at this school that we have a similar friend group because people care enough that they want to tell us apart,” Paul said.
Aside from sharing a friend group, the two said they also play music together.
“We play the guitar together and had a band,” Paul said. “Just the two of us performed the guitar and sang at restaurants as a summer job. We both like dance. We both do all of the same things basically.”
Adam and Paul both said their favorite part of being a twin was being understood.
“No one makes me laugh as much as him because our sense of humor formed the exact same way, and so the hardest times I’ve ever laughed are with him,” Paul said. “He’s also given me some of the best advice because he understands me. That connection is really special.”
The two said making time for each other in college requires more intentionality. Still, they both enjoy having a twin to relate to in every aspect of life, including their college experiences.
“It’s unique to have someone that understands you so completely,” Adam said. “To be made similarly, to have the same DNA, and also to grow up in the same house and have all the same friends makes for someone outside of yourself that understands you on a really deep level, which is amazing.”
“I think there’s always gonna be a temptation to compare and have a rivalry over friendships, but that’s something that everyone’s going to face at some point in their life, so learning to face it now is a good thing,” Paul said. “It teaches you to be humble and find your identity in God.”