Sib, kids do college full-time

GVL / Eric Coulter 
Tyson and Trevor Spoelma in the GVSU Zumberge Library

Eric Coulter

GVL / Eric Coulter Tyson and Trevor Spoelma in the GVSU Zumberge Library

Lizzy Balboa

Although Grand Valley State University sets one weekend aside to host “Sibs and Kids” of the community, some siblings and children roam the campus every day of the year.

The university does not record the number of children living in on-campus family housing, but Institutional Analysis recorded about 372 sets of siblings enrolled at GVSU this semester.

Frank Bernier, a college counselor who advises and hosts workshops for high school students across the state, said he thinks siblings can benefit from one another in the classroom, but does not encourage them to attend the same college for social reasons.

“Older siblings can be very helpful … in terms of picking out professors and other strategies that come into play,” Bernier said. “My main concern rests in the fact that a lot of times younger siblings depends on the older ones to kind of set the course. You want them right from the beginning to kind of strike out on their own.”

However, some siblings have successfully gotten through a few semesters while remaining close.

The inseparables

Sophomores Kersten and Staci O’Brien both elected to come to GVSU, but they said it wasn’t really a coincidence. The O’Briens, identical twins, do almost everything together.

“I feel like it would have been weird if we would have went to different places,” Staci said. “We do everything
together, so it kind of made sense that we stayed together.” Kersten agreed.

“I think it would’ve been really strange to separate,” she said.

From biking around campus to rowing crew, the sisters like to keep each other company. They live together,
eat together, hang out with the same friends and even share similar majors. Kersten, a nursing major, and Staci, an athletic training major, are so alike that they unintentionally booked the same chemistry class their freshman year.

The O’Briens said because they rarely do anything apart, they sometimes get irritated with one another.

When they do, they retreat to the computer lab or visit friends separately, but said they never stay apart for too long.

The sisters agreed that the worst part of being on campus together is that their non-mutual friends from their separate classes often get them confused when walking on campus. However, the O’Briens said having a sibling on campus is overall a positive experience.

“It’s nice to have someone there for you who’s always going to be there and can’t just abandon you,” Kersten said. “It’s fun to share experiences together.”

Staci said they have even become closer in the last two years. “We can tell more now that we have a stronger bond,” she said.

The tag-along

Junior Trevor Spoelma said the same thing about his relationship with his freshman brother, Tyson.

“If anything, college has made us closer because we’re going through similar experiences,” Trevor said. “In high school there was a little bit of that distance because you don’t hang out with your little brother in the same friend circle but in college you kind of do.”

Both brothers said they were close before coming to college together, but they have strengthened their bond this year.

The Spoelmas play on the same club volleyball team and even have similar academic interests. Trevor is a psychology major, while Tyson is a mathematics major and psychology minor.

“We’re very similar in every single way,” Tyson said, adding that he likes having Trevor around to give advice on which courses he should take, what clubs to join and how to deal with some aspects of living on campus.

“His opinion of things really influences my choices sometimes,” Tyson said, “But he’s a good role model for sure.”

Trevor said Tyson definitely benefits from having an older brother on campus.

“I’m able to advise him in a way and tell him what kinds of groups or activities or classes are cool or good to get involved in,” Trevor said. Tyson agreed.

“I definitely think it’s a bonus, for sure, because he kind of clears the path a little bit and then you just kind of follow along and enjoy the ride with him,” he said.

Although Tyson could not think of a disadvantage to having a sibling on campus, Trevor could.

“There’s really no cons, except when he gets better grades than me,” he said jokingly.

The brothers plan to live together next year. “I think it’ll be fun,” Trevor said. “It’s nice to have a good friend on campus.”

Kids on campus

When Professors Bart and Kirsten Bartels signed up to be live-in faculty in the Niemeyer Living Center,
they brought their two children to live with them.

Lauren, 11, said she loves living on a college campus even more so than her old home because there is never a shortage of things to do.

“There’s the Rec Center and the Turf Building, so everything’s pretty much within walking distance,” said Lauren, who also frequents the Recreation Room in the Kirkhof Center. “You pretty much never get bored.”

Lauren said she often hangs out with the residents of Niemeyer, who she said are very welcoming and inclusive.
She added that her school friends are always impressed when the bus drops her off on the Allendale campus.

“When I’m sitting by my friends on the bus, almost every time someone says, ‘Why are we here?’ and I say, ‘Because I live here,’” Lauren said.

Lauren said she wants to be a singer in a musical when she gets older and hopes to take advantage of some of the classes and musical resources GVSU has to offer. She also said she hopes to be a Laker one day.

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