Family matters in the Purple Bubble

The American college experience can be seen as a rite of passage, a formative transition from the cringing adolescent days that plague our memories to life as reasonably mature, responsible adults. Having to consider family dynamics in the turmoil of term papers, extensive readings and job hours is something most of us never have to do. For some students at the College, however, living, studying and socializing with an older or younger sibling is part of daily life.

Jake Stark ’14 and Abby Stark ’11
Buffalo, N.Y., natives Jacob Stark ’14 and Abby Stark ’11 have only shared their Williams experiences since the beginning of Winter Study – with Abby abroad during the fall semester, Jacob spent his first few months in the purple bubble settling in on his own. Since Abby’s return, the Stark siblings have managed to strike a balance between family and friend time by leading separate lives and pursuing different interests, but seeing each other several times a week to check in and run errands. As Abby says, “It’s nice to have a family member on campus who is always there to help out with the car or groceries, and to understand what I’m talking about when I complain about the walk to Mission dining hall or all of my homework.” Although Jacob’s JA is one of Abby’s best friends, the Starks find it possible to “have [their] own separate spheres … and not step on each other’s toes,” Abby said. Nevertheless, sometimes things get a little too close for comfort. “The occasional awkward moment when I see [Abby] at Goodrich can be a bit weird,” Jacob said. Overall, having an older sister around has improved Jacob’s college experience and the Starks’ bond as siblings. “We both do our own thing,” said Abby, but “being at the same school has made us a lot closer.”

Anna Marrs ’13 and Tim Marrs ’11

For Tim Marrs ’11 and Anna Marrs ’13, attending the same school is not an unusual matter. This pair of siblings from northern California has “gone to school together ever since [they] were little,” but Anna’s decision to attend the College was complicated by this experience. After years of constantly being referred to as “Tim’s little sister” by her teachers and peers at school, Anna thought she wanted a change. “I wanted to make an identity of my own [at college],” she said. Despite being “initially turned off by Williams” because of this, Anna eventually committed, even despite Tim’s presence. Nowadays, she appreciates Tim’s advice and guidance. “From day one, I had someone to show me the ropes and someone I could always trust if I ever needed anything,” Anna said. The Marrs occasionally hang out during the week and on the weekends, and make it a point to have lunch together once a week. “I feel very lucky to have a sibling on campus,” said Anna. “I know that next year after he’s graduated, I will miss having him here with me.”

Brian Thomas ’12 and Charlene Thomas ’11
From the famed Brooklyn, N.Y., home of Biggie Smalls, Jay-Z and those peculiar conforming-nonconformists also known as hipsters, Brian Thomas ’12 and Charlene Thomas ’11 committed to the College for different reasons, but both find their sibling relationship to be equally fulfilling and challenging. “It’s rewarding to know that there is one person who will understand you without you having to explain anything,” said Brian, “but sometimes the expectations people place on you as siblings is unreasonable; we’re still two different people.” Maintaining personal space can be a concern to the Thomases, who are both members of Sankofa – which means that they not only put in long hours of practice together, but also share many friends. Despite the occasional social hiccup, Brian has been happy to share college life with Charlene. “We didn’t really hang out or talk before [we both came here],” said Brian, “so I owe Williams for rebuilding our relationship.”

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