Among the 6,000 plus undergraduate student body at Tufts, there are sibling Jumbos who have found their own niches within the university’s many offerings. Going from sharing the same home to living on the same campus, they have navigated life through their sibling bonds. Here’s a look into a few of their relationships.
Irene and Ellie Pantekidis
Irene and Ellie Pantekidis hail from Natick, Mass. Irene is a senior pursuing majors in biology, child study and human development and Spanish and is on the pre-med track. Ellie is a first-year with plans to major in biology and potentially biotechnology, and is also on the pre-med track.
For the Pantekidis sisters, the Tufts name was always in their household, as their mother works at the School of Dental Medicine. When the time came for Ellie to apply to colleges, Tufts was one of her top choices.
“I had the nice added benefit of personally knowing someone who went there. I could ask about Irene’s experiences … but also be able to make new connections for myself and get to know the campus as a separate person,” Ellie said. “It’s just really nice to have seen through my mom and through my sister that [Tufts] was such a great community, and it really resonated with me that that was something I wanted to be part of as well.”
When Ellie’s decision was released, Irene traveled back home from Tufts to open it with her, and together, they celebrated the good news.
“It was a really good feeling for both us and for the family overall to know that we’re both kind of entering this new chapter in our lives. Irene’s a senior and I’m just starting off college, but no matter what, we’re here for each other,” Ellie said.
Tufts is a meaningful place to Irene, so she was naturally excited to share this with her sister.
“This is a place that, after three years, I now consider my second home,” Irene said. “I remember the first time that Ellie and I went to something as small as Picante. … I was really excited to share with her … all the little special places that make this campus feel so warm and happy to me.”
Removed from their familiar environment, living at Tufts has provided interesting ways for Irene and Ellie to bond and support each other.
“Being able to reunite in a sense in a new setting — in a new home — and having Irene to help me adjust to it has definitely brought us … together in a way that, because of distance, we couldn’t have in the past three years,” Ellie said. “I’ll text Irene for literally anything [like] … how to check out a book in the library. I remember, [during the bomb] threats in December, … it was really nice to have someone here who really resonated with home.”
Ellie spoke to how their sisterhood has affected her journey to shape her own path at Tufts.
“I feel like when you’re already sisters, you kind of look alike, … and maybe you have the general same interest, it is important to find ways to have your own thing. But I think we’ve done a really good job of that,” Irene said.
Each week, the two catch up over a meal from Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run. The common experience of being on the same Tufts campus makes exchanging advice easier.
“Despite the fact that she’s three years younger, I still turn to her as if she was 10 years older. She’s someone that I can always seek valuable advice from,” Irene said.
Their close physical proximity has allowed the sisters to rely on each other in hard times.
“One of the best aspects of coming to Tufts was that I could always walk three minutes and come to my sister for anything,” Ellie said. “You’re gonna have your hard moments in college, but no matter what, Irene is my rock. It’s so nice to have that in Medford, even if it’s just for a year as I get adjusted.”
As a senior, Irene is very grateful to have spent her final year of college with Ellie by her side.
“The last year of college is already so so emotional. But the fact that I get to share it with my best friend just makes it that much more special,” Irene said.
Zach and Jeremy Lawrence
Zach and Jeremy Lawrence are from Dover, Mass. Both are divers on the swim and dive team at Tufts.
Zach is a current senior who is double majoring in architecture and environmental studies.
“I was looking for a diving school, but I didn’t choose [Tufts] just for sports but it has a really great program. Also, … it gave me a lot of opportunities to do different things with my academic career,” Zach said.
Jeremy is a first-year studying computer science in the School of Engineering and math in the School of Arts and Sciences. When it was Jeremy’s turn for college decisions, Zach nudged him slightly toward Tufts.
“I was kind of pushing him to come here a little bit because … I thought it would be a really great school for him, and obviously having him close is nice,” Zach said.
Jeremy noted that he became aware of Zach’s presence on campus very early on, realizing he would be entering a space with connections he may not even be aware of.
“When I first visited campus and was on a tour, my tour guide knew Zach, I don’t remember him or what his name was, but it was funny,” Jeremy said.
On Tufts’ campus, the Lawrence brothers see a lot of each other as members of the swim and dive team. While Zach’s experience made this commitment something that Jeremy would look forward to, Jeremy nevertheless has been trying not to lean on his older brother too much.
“Having a brother already at Tufts, I knew how welcoming the [swim and dive] team would be and how friendly everyone was,” Jeremy said. “I’m trying to find my own way.”
As Zach faces graduation, he reflects gladly upon having one year of overlap with Jeremy and has no doubt that Jeremy will continue to thrive at Tufts.
“I was a little nervous for Jeremy’s transition to college,” Zach said. “I know it’s probably helped him having me be here, and then also I know that he’ll be in good hands once I leave … after being able to have this one year with him.”
George and Madeline Knightly
George and Madeline Knightly are twins and current sophomores at Tufts. Coming from the Bay Area, both put Tufts on their college application lists, a decision somewhat influenced by their father being an alum. However, it came as a surprise when they realized they would both be attending the same college.
“I almost didn’t want to go because my sister was going here. I was like, ‘Man, I can go anywhere else … [but] here I am,’” George said. “I remember the first day, I ate dinner with her in [Carmichael Dining Center] because I didn’t know anybody. … But pretty quickly… I ended up going and finding my group of people [and] she met hers.”
George and Madeline shared the same friend group in high school, but in college, they’ve found their own communities.
“Now that we’re at college, … we [have] this whole new social sphere that we’re put in, so we’ve developed our own things based on our identities now,” George said.
This year, both siblings live in Harleston Hall, making it convenient to see each other on a regular basis.
“Whenever [Madeline is] walking in the building, she’ll walk by my door, and I see her every couple of days,” George said.
Madeline agreed, acknowledging that their relationship has remained relatively the same so far, only that they see each other less frequently.
“I’d see George around more during high school because one, it was smaller, two, we hung around the same people. But now … we live in the same dorm so I’ll run into him, and then sometimes I’ll run into him walking around campus and then we’ll talk and stuff, so it’s about the same dynamic, we just see each other less,” Madeline said.
Kai and Nika Renshaw
Kai and Nika Renshaw are both divers on the swim and dive team. They grew up in the Medford/Somerville area before moving to Hanover, N.H.
Nika, a sophomore, always had a hunch that she might attend the same college as her brother Kai, a senior.
“I kind of knew the whole time that we would likely end up together at Tufts. We have always gotten along pretty well, so it was never something keeping me from being [here],” Nika said.
Nika’s decision to enroll at Tufts was influenced by her brother, and although it was not a major reason, as a student, she is now grateful to be in the same place.
“[Kai] wasn’t the main thing that made me choose Tufts, but it was a choice to come here with Kai. I think knowing he could be somewhere else has, in a way, made me more grateful that he isn’t,” Nika said.
Being on the same sports team and the generally strong connections that exist across class years at college have brought Nika and Kai closer together.
“Once you have independence, you realize the value of having that close relationship with [your family.] … Me and my sister are definitely much closer here at Tufts than we were at high school,” Kai said. “[A senior] and a sophomore at Tufts on the swimming and diving team have a ton of shared experiences.”
Both benefit from what the other sibling has introduced them to at Tufts.
“Nika is a significantly more social person than I am, … so [she] has expanded my social circles quite a bit. And I also think, from my perspective, I definitely do give Nika a lot of insider information.”
The siblings have dinner nearly every week with their mom, who works at Tufts. Plus, being on the same sports team at the same university has made it very convenient for their parents to attend their meets.