How college changed the way I view my younger sister

My sister’s visit to Charlottesville highlighted how much we have grown since I went to college

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Josie Sydnor is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. 

Emma Klein | Cavalier Daily

A few weeks ago, my younger sister Sally came to visit and watch a football game with me and my friends. Although it seems way too soon for her to be graduating, she’ll be done with high school in May — and before I know it, she’ll be preparing for college.

I’ve tried not to sway her opinion on different colleges, but I knew that a fun weekend would be a harmless and convincing tactic to persuade Sally to pick U.Va. for her top choice. She arrived early in the afternoon, and we arranged to meet in a parking lot by the stadium. As I made my way over, I thought about how strange it felt that my baby sister could be one of the first-years strolling down from dorms to the stadium next year.

One of the first things I noticed about Sally that day was that she had copied one of my typical hairstyles. It’s not a unique look — just the top half of my hair pulled into a semi-messy “half-up, half-down” ponytail — but I had never seen Sally wear it before.

In my image of Sally, she always wears her wavy hair loose — for years she had refused to wear it in any other fashion. I realized that at some point while I was in college, she had changed her mind and adopted the new style.  She approached me from across the parking lot looking somehow more mature with her hair pulled away from her face, and I loved that she chose my look to break her years-long one-hairstyle streak.

The stadium was packed and the crowd was roaring — I was glad that Sally got to visit for such a high-energy game. We sat with a group of my friends on the hillside, with me and Sally in the front and the others behind us.  

I remember hoping that Sally was having fun and that she didn’t feel out of place. At one point I tuned out of the conversation to watch a play, but I realized Sally might feel awkward in a new group of people, so I quickly looked over to make sure that she didn’t feel left out.

However, instead of sitting quietly in the grass, she had turned and was chatting with my friends, leading the conversation by showing them something funny on her phone. She had grown more confident and self-assured than I had realized, and my image of her was outdated by two years — frozen in time since the summer before my first year. Only seeing her for a few weeks at a time during the year meant that my strongest impression of Sally was from before I left for college.

Although I see Sally during breaks and text her to stay in touch, this communication is distinctly different from when we lived together at home. They’re mere snapshots of experiences and brief conversations instead of long stretches of time together — this makes any change in our lives stand out in stark contrast. 

Sally mentioned that since I’ve begun college, I appear more confident in myself as well and have a greater passion for the subjects I love. I’d agree with both her observations now, but I hadn’t realized the changes within myself until she had pointed them out.  

Our personal growth can sometimes be ambiguous to us, but clear to others — especially after we haven’t seen them for a while.  Spending time apart from Sally allowed us to detect the changes we’ve undergone as we’ve gotten older — better than when we lived together.

Sally’s visit to Charlottesville made me realize how much she has changed over the course of two years — she’s still my little sister, but she’s not my “baby” sister anymore. Wherever she chooses to go to college, I’m excited to see how she’ll have grown when we reunite.

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