Families in college together: Twin sisters who share home, combs, and chromosomes
Imagine leaving home at the age of eight to live on another continent. Separated from family, friends and life as you know it by an ocean, your world changes. Such was the case for identical twins Bukola and Dolapo Odeniyi, when they boarded the plane in Nigeria. A new life awaited them at their destination 7,856 miles away in Los Angeles, Calif.
The sisters, only children at the time, are now young ladies preparing to march across the stage to receive their Bachelor degrees in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
They lived in Los Angeles for three years before coming to Arkansas. Fortunately, English is one of Nigeria’s national languages.
“I was in seventh grade, ” Dolapo Odeniyi said. “The accents are different, but I was still able to understand. People spoke very fast. Some of the spellings were different because we used British English.
Adjusting to accents, however, was not the only hurdle the twins had to leap over during elementary school.
“We didn’t have a lot of friends because we’re Africans or we’re different,” Dolapo Odeniyi said. “There are different stereotypes about Africans. So we weren’t exactly the cool people.”
“We were fortunate to be twins. We always had each other to look forward to during lunchtime or recess.”
When the Odeniyi family moved to Arkansas, the twins said they were able to take most of their classes together. Still, the transition wasn’t easy. According to Dolapo Odeniyi, it was the first time many of their classmates had even seen Africans.
“It was hard. The population of Africans in Arkansas or in Little rock is not that big.”
The sisters are not just sisters but best friends. They learned to crochet together, do hair together, and even change the oil in a car together. It is difficult not to become friends when you are as close as the Odeniyi twins.
“The two of us were kind of forced to be very close because we had to share almost everything. Share a room, share a bed, share clothes, share shoes,” Bukola Odeniyi said. “They tried to make us share a blanket,” her sister added.
Despite being forced to share virtually everything, their personalities could not be more opposite.
Bukola Odeniyi plays keyboard. Dolapo Odeniyi likes to draw. One loves to cook, the other likes to eat. Like opposite sides of the color wheel, the two seem to compliment one another.
“A lot of people generally say I’m the more outgoing one and more friendly one,” Dolapo Odeniyi said. “Whereas my sister might seem more reserved at times, more serious. But I think that is changing and I’m becoming more reserved and she’s becoming more outgoing.”
“We’re a balance for each other,” she said.
“If she went to a university alone, and I wasn’t there, there would be no one there to distress her,” Bukola Odeniyi explained. “If I went to a university alone, and she wasn’t there, there would be no one to cause me stress and get work done. So it’s just like a nice balance. She doesn’t lose her mind, and I get my work done. And we both succeed.”
As Donaghey Scholars and double majors, twins attribute their achievement to their mutual support for each other. The two have taken all of their classes together during college, with the exception of statistics.
“If one of us made an 85, we sit down and figure out how are we going to get that other person above an 85.”
The sisters tried living apart during their sophomore year as Resident Assistants, one at West Hall and the other at East Hall. Soon enough, they realized how interdependent they had become.
“That was stressful because that balance wasn’t there,” Dolapo Odeniyi said. “We weren’t able to see each other at night or wake each other up. The first couple of weeks I had overslept. We weren’t always with each other at night to study.”
“That year our grades weren’t as good as they normally are. It makes a big difference, at least for the studying part.” The twins now live together again in an on-campus apartment.
“What were the advantages of being apart?” Dolapo Odeniyi asked her sister.
“Of being apart? Nothing,” she said.
They do have to deal with annoyance of people getting them confused when they are together.
“When our teachers are passing out our papers, we’re sitting next to each other,” Dolapo Odeniyi said. “They pause for like 30 seconds. They try to guess it. Sometimes they’re right; it’s 50-50. Sometimes they’re not. It’s fun.”
Dating the twins can also be a difficulty, at least from the guy’s point of view.
“Our voices are similar,” Bukola Odeniyi said. “I was taking to Dolapo’s current boyfriend and he just carried on the conversation like I was her. So about 10 minutes later I was like, ‘Um, yeah, so she’s not around. Do you want me to deliver all that to her?’”
They mentioned that the only person who seems to be able to recognize their voices over the phone is their older brother. Even their parents get them mixed up.
“Currently, my dad has my (Bukola) picture as her (Dolapo) ID on his phone,” Bukola said.
The twins will spend the next seven years together in medical school. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences recently sent letters to the sisters notifying them of their acceptance into its combined M.D. and Ph.D program.
“Our desire in the medicine aspect is to work in underserved communities. We hope to be physician-scientists, meaning that we’ll have hands on experience with the patients, but we will also be in the lab doing research,” Bukola Odeniyi explained. The term for the field is translational medicine. Doctors are able to both work with their patients and then go to the laboratory to find solutions to their problems.
Eventually, the sisters would like to return to their homeland–a place they have not seen in nearly 13 years. Nigeria is still in their hearts though. Indeed it is their desire to improve the health care in Africa and other developing nations that drives their academic decisions.
“We’re working towards our ultimate goal and wherever we go, we’re going to have to achieve this goal.”