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Seeing Double: Inside the lives of three sets of Quinnipiac twins
Upon looking at Ric and Ryan Wallace one would find it difficult to distinguish between the two. Both are of medium height and athletically built with deeply tanned skin, dark brown hair and winning smiles. But upon closer inspection (via a 10-minute conversation), each Quinnipiac sophomore reveals a character all his own and both will be quick to tell you just what exactly makes them so different.
“I’m smarter,” Ryan says with a little smirk.
“He always beats me on test by like two points,” Ric chimes in. “If I get a 97, he’ll get a 99.”
“I did better on my SATs, too,” Ryan proclaims, “by 100 points.”
Ric and Ryan, who along with being finance majors and members of the same fraternity (Tau Kappa Epsilon) on campus, also happen to be 19-year-old identical twins.
Like most twins, the boys are outwardly competitive but both insist that they have “always gotten along” for the most part. So, when they made the decision to attend the same college a year-and-a-half ago, neither brother was all that worried.
Though they did not originally plan to attend college together, Ric, who is the clear spokesman for the pair with an obvious air of confidence and a mischievous demeanor, tells anyone who asks that he is the one responsible for making the choice to come to Quinnipiac University and that Ryan just happened to come along for the ride.
“We knew some people [at Quinnipiac] and I liked it here,” Ric said. “Ryan just came along for the tour and ended up loving it.”
They are not the only ones.
Over the years, Quinnipiac seems to have acquired its fair share of resident twins with at least 10 sets currently in attendance. According to the Office of Financial Aid, the spike in population may be attributed to the development of a scholarship called the “Quinnipiac Sibling Award” or “QSIB” for short. The award, which began in 2001, grants $1,500 each to multiple siblings who are concurrently enrolled as full-time undergraduate students at the university. In its first year, the scholarship aided 134 siblings a number that has since swelled to approximately 172 eligible siblings. Though not all who receive the award are necessarily twins, it may just be what has some Quinnipiac students seeing double.
In the past, society has often been skeptical about siblings attending the same schools, particularly on an elementary level. But according to research performed by the National Association of School Psychologists, there is no right or wrong way to handle this situation. Psychologists are on the fence regarding the issue and say that they continue to “maintain a flexible perspective.”
The Wallaces, on the other hand, think they have it all figured out. They are more than happy attending college together and say that life as twins at Quinnipiac has been pretty good for them.
“I think people were drawn to us [because we’re twins] in the beginning,” Ric said. “It definitely helped us meet people.”
Such social interactions may otherwise have been an issue for Ric’s shyer and more brooding counterpart. With noticeably shaggier hair and a quiet disposition that he uses to shield the cool, witty personality just underneath, Ryan agrees that going away to school together was not such a bad idea.
Aside from the obvious social perks (both look as if they just stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch advertisement), Ryan recognizes that there are other, more practical benefits to being twins at the same college.
“We share books,” he said.
“We alternate who buys [the textbooks] each semester,” Ric added. “We have most of the same classes and if we don’t, they still usually require the same textbooks.”
Katie and Leisl Lissfelt, 20-year-old juniors from Woodstock, and another of Quinnipiac’s sets of twins, had other reasons for attending college together. It was not their love of Sleeping Giant but rather their similar knack for athletics and agility on the field that led them to Quinnipiac.
“We came for the soccer team,” Leisl said. “We used to come watch them play on campus when we were younger.”
Katie added that the convenient half-hour commute from their hometown did not detract from the school’s appeal either. Though they played soccer in high school together where they were often confused for each other during games by local reporters, the Lissfelts thought that playing soccer at Quinnipiac would afford them the opportunity to distinguish themselves.
Unlike the Wallaces, the Lissfelts, who are both marketing majors, are unsure of whether they are identical or fraternal twins. The girls look almost exactly alike with slim and athletic figures, tanned skin from their frequent outdoor practices, dark straight brown hair and a spattering of freckles. But a Caesarean section that their mother received during their births prevented them from finding out for sure.
“They threw out the placenta or whatever and we would need a DNA test to find out,” Katie said.
Since they have similar soft-spoken personalities, their differences are best seen on the soccer field.
Katie plays a variety of positions while Leisl excels as a mid-fielder. Not too reluctantly, Katie admits that Leisl is the stronger player (she was recognized as “Athlete of the Week” by the Athletics Department in August 2005).
Though the Wallaces and Lissfelts grappled, at least initially, with their decision to attend school together, a third set of twins, Katie and Kellie Forrester, found their decision to stick together a natural choice. Until the summer before they began college, the now 21-year-old seniors had never spent more than a day apart from one another. Their decision was not whether to come to college together but rather what college would offer them as a pair.
“It was definitely the atmosphere,” said Katie, who is the chattier of the two girls. “The people seemed the most real here.”
Real, maybe. But particularly observant? Not so much.
All three sets of twins agree that people not being able to tell them apart is always a big issue. According to the Lissfelts, even their professors are clueless.
“The [professors] don’t even notice that we’re twins sometimes,” Leisl said. “Then one day they’ll say ‘are you two related?'”
In the past, they used this power of deception to their advantage.
“I went to [Leisl’s] class for her once in high school and the teacher didn’t even know,” Katie said.
Unfortunately, getting mixed up is not always good for their social lives.
Ryan Wallace cannot understand why people have such a problem telling him and his brother apart. “Even your TKE brothers call me, Ric,” Ryan said, sounding somewhat annoyed.
All of the twins contend that the supernatural ‘connections’ people often associate with twins is grossly overplayed. Yet they do have some unusual connections that distinguish them from ‘normal’ brothers and sisters.
“We did have one weird twin story though. We both had the same dream that wolves were chasing us around our grandmom’s backyard,” Katie Forrester said.
Though no wolves have been in the picture, the Wallaces agree that they too have had some strange twin experiences.
“We both got in our first car accidents on the same day,” Ric said. “I got in one and then later that night I found out that Ryan had crashed our mom’s car.”
Unlike the others, the Lissfelts say that they do not know automatically what the other is thinking but rely instead on tell-tale body language to figure it out.
“I mean, we’re close so we know a lot about each other,” Katie said. “We have the same reactions to a lot of things and the same mannerisms. We think the same things when we meet someone and we can tell [what the other is thinking] by her body language.”
They think that being twins is much the same as being a regular family. “People always ask, ‘what’s it like being twins?'” Leisl said. “But it’s just like having any other sibling.”
Despite the special bonds they share, even twins have to fight sometimes. Their ongoing battles seem to include one thing and one thing only: clothes.
Katie and Leisl Lissfelt, who seem to have a level-headed life approach to match their amiable personalities, abide by a simple rule system when it comes to borrowing items from their wardrobes.
“We have a rule that when one [twin] buys [a piece of clothing] the other one can’t wear it until the one who bought it does first,” Leisl said.
Katie and Kellie Forrester struggle with an entirely different problem. They sometimes arrive to campus in the morning only to find, to their dismay, that they have chosen the same outfit to wear that day. “Neither of us will want to change,” Kellie said.
Even so, all seem to come to agreement on the idea that they have found lifelong friendships in their unique circumstances.
“We’re more friends than brothers,” Ric Wallace said. “I consider him more of a friend.”
Ironically, Katie and Leisl Lissfelt say that sharing is a positive part of their relationship. “You can share clothes,” Katie said. “And you can talk to each other about what you’re thinking about,” Leisl added.
“You’re never bored,” Kellie Forrester added.
Perhaps Ryan Wallace said it best.
“[The best part of being a twin] is that you always have a friend.that you can’t get rid of.”