Cover Image

Image Courtesy of Sarah Afaneh

Meet the Siblings on Campus

From the Mountcastles to the Karpauskaites, siblings on campus have different, and at times evolving, relationships.

Dec 7, 2019

“Aya?” Some of my clearest memories of Candidate Weekend, Marhaba and my first semester include people asking whether I was my sister, and the subsequent shock when they realized that I was Aya’s sister: “Oh my god I love Aya!”
Don’t get me wrong, the hijab, similar fashion sense — which she stole from me, definitely not the other way around — and the way we talk makes it easy for people to confuse us. Some people might even say we look like twins. Irrespective, freshman Sarah absolutely hated the comparison.
Sophomore Sarah, on the other hand, now dealing with a second semester without Aya, who has been enjoying her study away, may burst into tears when it happens.
Siblings on campus have different, at times evolving, relationships.
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Image Courtesy of Sarah Afaneh
Eleanor Holtzapple, Class of 2023 and her older sister, Katarina Holtzapple, Class of 2020, have gotten closer as since Eleanor joined NYU Abu Dhabi.
“Honestly, I think we might go out willingly together more often now than when we lived in the same house,” Eleanor mentioned.
Having a sibling on campus frequently aids with the transition to university life: sometimes, just seeing a familiar face can make all the difference. Katarina is happy that she and her friends can be there for Eleanor and her friends to support them as they adapt to life in college.
While Eleanor does appreciate this, she shares that one of the downsides of having her sister on campus is that it feels like having a parent around at times. Hence, she tries to distance her involvement with Eleanor’s life on campus to a certain degree so her sister can have her own experience of NYUAD.
Regardless, they say the benefits outweigh the challenges.
“Selfishly, one of the really cool things about having a sister who’s a freshman, is knowing that Abu Dhabi will be a part of my life even after I graduate, because at the very least, I’ll come back for her commencement, if not just to come back and visit her,” said Katarina.
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Image Courtesy of Dalia Karpauskaite
Dalia Karpauskaite, Class of 2022, is the youngest of four sisters at NYUAD. The eldest, Ruta, graduated last year as part of the Class of 2019, and Egle, Class of 2021, is currently studying away in New York. Dalia currently lives in the same suite with Laura, Class of 2020, and refers to her as one of her closest friends.
“She’s genuinely a person I can [always] depend on … Of course you meet people on campus and make friends, but for me, since freshman year, [having my siblings around] has been the most helpful thing whilst adapting … that has helped me a lot.”
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Image Courtesy of Sarah Afaneh
Liyan Ibrahim, Class of 2022, and her older sister, Lujain Ibrahim, Class of 2020, also share the same suite and consider each other best friends.
“We’ve always had a relatively close relationship with each other, we’ve always been friends for as long as I can remember, but I think going to the same university and high school [has brought us a lot] closer,” Liyan shared.
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Image Courtesy of Sarah Afaneh
Liyan appreciates her sister’s role in easing her transition into university as a first-year, providing her with a constant familiar face around campus. This does not come without its burdens though, which include living with expectations set by Lujain: “People will inevitably, subconsciously compare you guys, and that’s not out of malicious intentions or anything. But because it’s in the nature of people to do that, it kind of influences the decisions I make.”
Another challenge that comes at the cost of being a younger sibling is being a constant go-to, even when it doesn’t benefit you.
“I think the biggest disadvantage is losing my campus dirhams cause I feed her all the time and buy her coffee,” Liyan said while laughing.
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Image Courtesy of Teagen Mountcastle
Alexis Mountcastle, Class of 2020, and Teagan Mountcastle, Class of 2023, have learned to appreciate their time together after Alexis left for university three years ago. Now that they live in the same place again, they are closer than ever. Their time together involves going to the gym, decorating their dorms and going to Abdel Wahhab (a popular hangout spot for NYUAD students) on Tuesdays. One of their favorite memories includes Alexis teaching Teagan how to make ramen during Marhaba.
“I think that it’s a lot easier overall to be closer to each other in university than it is in high school, when age and class differences are less pronounced and when we are both mature enough to appreciate each other’s immediate presence in our lives,” Alexis shared.
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Image Courtesy of Teagen Mountcastle
Joining NYUAD this year, Teagen found that building onto the Mountcastle name was nerve-wracking.
“Starting school at this campus as the youngest of the five Mountcastles came with a lot of nerves,” she admitted. “I certainly feel like there are a lot of expectations set out for me because of the legacies that my older siblings left at this school. So, there’s a lot of pressure to succeed in an environment where it seems as though all of the upperclassmen and a lot of the freshmen know of my siblings.”
Alexis also reflected on the comparative nature of having a sibling on campus.
“Having a sister on campus, it’s easy to start comparing yourself to her,” Alexis said. “Seeing the way she integrates to campus in a way that I never did as a freshman, I’m really proud — but also sometimes jealous of the things she had that I did not.”
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Image Courtesy of Akash Jaini
Akash Jaini, Class of 2020, and his brother; Pavan Jaini, Class of 2022, are two years apart and also consider themselves quite close. They have lived together for a majority of their lives, from their high school at a boarding school in India to their university education in Abu Dhabi.
“It's always nice to have a part of family around you to make you feel like home, and I think Pavan has always represented that for me,” Akash shared. “If I end up moving to another city after graduation, I'm sure I'll miss having him around.”
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Image Courtesy of Sarah Afaneh
From meeting up for lunch at Sushi Counter to trying to find time to Skype, Aya and I have had our own share of ups and downs as siblings that attend the same university. Siblings on campus have a unique experiences at NYUAD, regardless of the dynamic of their relationships or its downsides. And if not, there remains a strong sense of community on campus, allowing us to build up homes with the friends that we make here.
Sarah Afaneh is Social Media Editor and Deputy Features Editor. Email her at
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