For their four years at Urbana High School, twins Holly and Sara Chaisson didn’t have many chances to stay apart.
Going through Urbana High School’s International Baccalaureate program, the twins took classes together and hung out with the same group of friends. They drove to school together, did their homework together and spent some of their free time watching episodes of “Friends” and “Criminal Minds.”
But this fall the twins will be splitting up for the first time.
After graduation, Sara — who is younger by 10 minutes — will leave for Scotland, where she will study film and philosophy at the University of Aberdeen.
Holly will enroll in Houghton College in western New York to study theology.
For the twins — whose longest separation was for two weeks in the eighth grade — being a continent apart will be a big change. And although they feel anxious, they are also eager to move on with their lives.
“This is the strongest relationship that either of us has,” Holly said. “But now we are really going to be able to have our own life. It is going to be a really interesting experience not to be a twin.”
Because Frederick County Public Schools typically try to separate twins in different classes, the girls didn’t have many of the same classes until they got into high school. But once they both decided to enroll in Urbana High School’s International Baccalaureate program — in which they were required to take similar classes — the twins put extra effort in asserting their different identities.
Sara — a movie buff with a love of drawing and sarcasm — took art classes and gravitated toward philosophy. And Holly, who is quieter and loves reading, enrolled in rigorous Advanced Placement courses and volunteered with her church.
While the two never planned to move to different countries, the twins said they were talking about moving in different directions after high school.
“I always wanted to travel.... I want to have an adventure in college,” said Sara.
Sara, who also applied to schools in the United States, said she was more interested in universities in Britain. So she spent hours researching colleges online and trying to navigate her way through Britain’s college application process.
“I basically had to teach myself how to apply,” Sara said. “It took a lot of figuring out and a lot of frantic phone calls to Scotland in the middle of lunch break.”
And when the University of Aberdeen made her an offer, Sara said she was quick to accept.
“I am pretty excited,” said Sara, who will leave on a 14-hour flight to Scotland on Sept. 8.
Holly, however, searched for a smaller, Christian school to challenge her academically and build upon her interest in theology and religion. That is how she discovered Houghton College’s selective “East Meets West” honors program. The program enrolls 25 students each year and allows them to explore the interplay of three cultures: the Catholic/Protestant West, the Orthodox World and Islam.
“It was pretty intense,” said Holly, whose application process included at least four interviews.
As part of the program, Holly will be able to take a three-week trip through Eastern Europe in May, where she wants to meet up with Sara.
“I didn’t want to go to college and be bored,” Holly said.
As they get ready to move on to the next step of their lives, the twins are prepared to face some tough days when they will miss being at home, their family and each other. Next year will be the first time when they will not be together on their shared birthday, March 3, and on Thanksgiving, which is not celebrated in Scotland. To prepare for that, they are readying care packages for one another and filling them with comfort items, such as favorite snacks, postcards and envelopes.
“This has been a big adjustment for everyone,” said Sara, who said she is grateful to her parents for allowing her to follow her own path, no matter how far it takes her.
“By starting off like this, I feel we are going to be able to adapt quicker,” she said.