Twins of Eau Claire: local pairs reflect on a first semester with and without their sibling

More stories from Lauren French

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Savanna Meo, left, and her fraternal twin, Amanda Meo, embrace as toddlers. Amanda said she isn’t a fan of hugs, but her sister loves to dish them out to this day.

“The Meos?” UW-Eau Claire freshman Amanda Meo’s high school choir director called out.

Amanda Meo and her fraternal twin sister, Savanna Meo, both raised their hands.

The Green Bay duo grew up as a pair: They played together as children and participated in the same extracurricular activities in middle and high school. By the time they reached the age of 18, neither had spent more than two nights apart from the other.

But that all changed when the college decision process rolled around. Amanda and Savanna are just two of thousands of twins across the country who face the same dilemma each year: should they go to college together, or separately?

The Meo siblings decided to separate for college. Savanna chose St. Norbert College in De Pere — a small private school with close family ties — and Amanda set off for Eau Claire. After completing their first semester apart, both twins said the distance was beneficial as individuals and as a pair.

“… there was that feeling of ‘oh you can have your own identity now,’” Savanna said of her semester studying music education and vocal performance.

Amanda’s first semester as a business marketing student at Eau Claire brought a similar reality to life. No longer known as “the twin,” Amanda said she’s glad attending separate schools gave her some distance from the stereotype she always fell under.

But, like with most first-year college students, Amanda said it was hard to navigate all the “new college stuff” without her “person” nearby.

“I’ve never been alone going anywhere,” Amanda said. “Never a birthday party alone, never making friends alone, it was always with her.”

However, looking back on their relationship together over the years, the twins said they get along better now that they’re separated.

Amanda, self-described as outspoken and disorganized, said she often clashed with her responsible and organized twin growing up. The issues? Clothes on the bathroom floor, whose friends got to come over and use the basement, clothing thievery and competition.

Savanna said even though “nerves were high” between the two of them, they were still each other’s best friend. The distance dulled the fighting — although they still bicker when they visit home — and strengthened their bond, Amanda said. The Eau Claire freshman said it’s hard to make connections on campus that feel as strong as the one she has with Savanna.

“I’m comparing all the friends I make to our relationship,” Amanda said, “and that’s impossible.”

Amanda and Savanna will spend their birthday apart for the first time this semester, but neither think it will be too different.

While pairs like Amanda and Savanna find benefits from separating for college, that bill doesn’t fit everyone. Eau Claire psychology professor April Bleske-Rechek said a lot of people think same-age siblings need to separate to better develop themselves as individuals, but she’s not sure that’s universally true.
A fraternal twin herself, Bleske-Rechek said it’s an unfair assumption to say twins aren’t making close connections with other people while in the same setting as their twin.

She said encouraging twins to separate isn’t always the best option, and the likelihood they’ll want to separate probably depends on whether they’re fraternal or identical and how close their connection is.

“If you have somebody who understands you so well,” Bleske-Rechek said, “…why would you push them to not have that?”
And for twins Katie and Kelly Culshaw, attending Eau Claire together was the right choice.

They weren’t opposed to the idea of going to different schools, they said, but they both liked Eau Claire and wanted to stick together. The Appleton natives spent summers biking around Eau Claire with their grandfather and said they always admired the city’s beauty.

After completing her first semester, Kelly said it was nice to have someone who knows her so well around because none of their “extremely close” friends chose to attend Eau Claire.

The twins helped each other through the rough patches of their first semester: a boyfriend in a car accident (he’s OK) and deciding which majors to declare. They’re both undecided, but Kelly said it was beneficial to have her twin to talk to since they were both going through the same phase of uncertainty about their professional paths.
This isn’t the first time Katie and Kelly have chosen to stick together when offered the chance to split up. In second grade, the twins’ teachers thought it would be healthier for them to learn in separate classrooms. After a conversation with the second-graders about the possibility of splitting up, the twins’ mom fought against the idea. They remained in the same classroom until middle and high school.

“Simply,” Katie said, “we’re happier together.”