There isn’t much that has surprised Julia and Jenna Tsarpalas about The University of Iowa.
When the sophomores first visited campus, they knew right away that they would be comfortable here. The vibe was friendly. The University officials they met with were well organized. The staff and students they talked to gave them the impression that the school genuinely cared about its students. The residence halls were close to classes and downtown Iowa City. And with more than 100 areas of study, they’d be able to explore whatever subject they desired.
After a year and a half living and studying on campus, the twin sisters from the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Ill., will tell you—sometimes in unison—that The University of Iowa really is all those things. But here’s what they didn’t expect: that a school of 30,561 students would feel like such a close-knit community.
“I’m surprised by how many people I say ‘hi’ to,” says Jenna. “I know there are so many students here, but it feels small.”
“You get a routine down,” agrees Julia. “You see the same people every day.”
It helps that the twins take advantage of extracurricular opportunities on campus. They play intramural flag football, basketball, softball, and soccer; they are involved with Associated Residence Halls, the student government body for the UI residence halls; and many of their classes are small.
Jenna has a passion for languages and is studying French and Italian. Julia hopes to become a graphic designer and is studying art and German. Both are happy that the University encourages them to also take classes outside their majors. They challenge themselves with chemistry, calculus, microeconomics—even organ lessons. Now they’re looking into study abroad programs.
“I love that you can take such a variety of courses,” says Jenna, her twin nodding in agreement, “I’ve been able to explore what I want to do.”
Days are busy for both women. They get up early to eat breakfast with their friends on the men’s rowing team—the twins rowed on the women’s team during their first year, and Julia’s boyfriend is on the men’s team. Then it’s off to their first classes.
Between classes—both women have a full schedule—there’s time for studying, catching up with friends, and a daily call home to Mom. Evenings are usually filled with meetings or intramural sports. Weekends? More studying, meetings, group projects, and, for fun, movies and dining out in downtown Iowa City.
“It’s interesting to see everything you can do on campus,” says Jenna. “We try to have fun with what we do. There are certain things that have to take priority—academics, but…”
“…we can find a balance here,” Julia says, finishing her sister’s sentence. “It just works out.”
by Anne Kapler