Augustana students are seeing double.
Perhaps that is just how it appears. According to assistant director of financial aid Tresse Evenson, there are 11 sets of twins walking around campus.
These twins are not just duplicates of each other. They are not just a pair of similar faces in the sea of students.
In fact, some of Augustana’s fraternal twins cause students to comment that they don’t even look like each other. This is the case for seniors Matt and JT Garred. “Once in high school we switched spots for a day, but we didn’t fool anybody,” JT Garred said.
The differences between the Garred brothers don’t stop at looks, but they do agree being a twin means they are “on the same frequency,” Matt Garred said. “We’re like a Venn Diagram.”
They each have their own distinct personalities, the brothers decided together, but they complement each other.
Juniors Amanda and Jessica Johnson believe that distinct personalities are important for twins. Eleven sets of twins on campus means 22 individual personalities.
Amanda Johnson doesn’t like it when twins dress the same. “I think that’s too much,” she said. “You’re two separate people.”
The Johnsons hold themselves to that same standard. “We’re so individual in ourselves,” Amanda Johnson said.
“We’re not a twin pack you can order at the grocery store,” Jessica Johnson added. “We try our best to adjust the stereotype.”
For the Johnson twins this means having their own friends, involving themselves in different activities and living in separate dorm rooms.
In fact, Jessica and Amanda Johnson weren’t planning on coming to college together at all. “I made the decision first,” Amanda Johnson said. “I really didn’t care where Jessica went.”
“I wanted to go to a school where she’s not,” Jessica Johnson said. “I felt like we needed to grow apart.” But after searching everywhere else, Jessica Johnson decided that Augustana was the best place for her to be, despite the presence of her twin.
But don’t misunderstand the Johnson twins. While all of their siblings are close, as twins they tend to share more information with each other. For group projects, they tend to choose each other as partners because they “know what to expect,” Jessica Johnson said.
“We have this dynamic,” Amanda Johnson said.
“We’re a lot weirder together,” Jessica Johnson chimed in. Smiling at her sister, she added, “We’re a lot more fun together.”
Sophomores Chris and Ryan Wilkins tend to agree that two is much more enjoyable than one.
Their high school classmates did too. When it came time to elect a homecoming king, their school used written ballots.
“People just wrote ‘Wilkins,’” Ryan Wilkins said.
“We didn’t even get nominated because they threw out all our votes,” Chris Wilkins added.
This did not deter the Wilkins twins from spending the majority of their time together. “Almost the entire senior year was just him and me, next to each other the whole year,” Ryan Wilkins said.
As it turns out for the Wilkins twins, it wasn’t just senior year they spent together.
They sat down and did the math one day, and the last day they spent more than 24 hours apart was when they were eight, Ryan Wilkins said. Chris Wilkins was sick and stayed home from a visit to their grandparents.
“I can’t remember a day in the last 12 years when I didn’t see you sometime during the day,” Ryan Wilkins said to his brother.
The Wilkins brothers wouldn’t have it any other way, either. “We’ve been through so much more than you can with other brothers,” Ryan Wilkins said. “It’s so much more of a connection.”
Part of this connection comes from a mutual love of confusing people. Sometimes people ask the twins, “Why do you dress the same?”
“To confuse people,” Ryan Wilkins said. “When you’re a twin, all that twin stuff is funnier.” In middle school, the Wilkins brothers dressed the exact same way, and asked their teachers to tell the difference.
Four out of five got it wrong.
This, however, is part of being an identical twin. Both of the Wilkins brothers have had whole conversations acting as the other because it is easier to go along with it than to notify the other person that they are speaking to the wrong twin. Both brothers said it spares the third party the embarrassment.
The Wilkins twins agree with the Johnson sisters: the group dynamic is different when dealing with twins. For the Wilkins brothers, this also affects how they talk.
“Early on you sort of learn that there’s usually one answer to the question for both of us,” Chris Wilkins said. “I’m more quiet than usual because you answer most of the questions,” he informed his brother.
Not every dynamic between the brothers is quite as laid back. They have their differences.
For instance: Bananas.
“Bananas are supposed to be yellow and sort of brown,” Ryan Wilkins stated emphatically.
“I like them green,” Chris Wilkins said, and shrugged.
Ryan Wilkins looked at his brother. “You’re so weird,” he said to his twin.
Like the Wilkins, freshmen Amber and Courtney Taylor stick together. “We’ve been together for 18 years. Why change that now?” Courtney Taylor said. The sisters room together, work at the Elmen Center together, do homework together and are both nursing majors.
“We were raised to really get along with our family members,” Amber Taylor said. This includes not only their relationship with each other, but also their relationships with eight other siblings.
Like the Johnson twins, the Taylors acknowledge that “we can be our own person,” Courtney Taylor said.
“You can tell that we’re two different people,” Amber Taylor added. But they know each other like no one else could.
“We can sometimes just look at each other and know what the other’s thinking, and be like, ‘Yeah, I know,’” Courtney Taylor said.
Not every twin at Augustana has this luxury, however. Freshman Mallory Edwards would have to hop into a car and drive several hours to look her sister in the eye.
Edwards and her twin split up when it came time to move to college. “I really wanted to go here and she just wanted to go for business, so she decided to go to a tech school,” Edwards said.
Edwards isn’t sure how this distance has affected their relationship. “It seems like the same, but we probably get along more. But it’s hard, because I’m used to having her there, and it’s weird because she’s not,” she said, wiping away tears.
Even so, Edwards holds firmly to her identity as a twin. “I don’t know how else I would identify myself,” she said.
Senior Dylan West can relate. He, too, is attending Augustana without his other half. West’s twin brother attends the University of Minnesota Duluth.
West also agrees that, while he misses his brother, the split has strengthened their relationship. “It’s been actually pretty good,” West said. The West brothers talk daily on the phone.
Being a twin is “a unique quality of who I am,” West said. “I’ll always have that partner in crime.”
Even so, he recognizes that being at a different school than his brother allows him to be his own person. “I’ve got to be Dylan,” he said. “An independent person, and not ‘the West twins.’”
Each set of twins has their differences from the others. But whether the twins are here together–like Amanda and Jessica Johnson, Chris and Ryan Wilkins, and Amber and Courtney Taylor–or apart–like Mallory and Macey Edwards and Dylan and Logan West–they are all in agreement of one thing: “My twin is my best friend.”