Whenever I meet someone new, it always seems like a matter of time before they learn that I have six siblings. This information is typically met with some variation of a wide-eyed, open-mouthed expression of shock and exclamations of “Oh, wow!” or “Wait, how many?”. It became clear to me that being one of seven kids was an unusual or even crazy idea to some people, although at a young age I didn’t think it was noteworthy at all; it was just my family.
What I have started realizing after moving away from home for college is that my family is not ‘just my family’. They are more than the people I see when I come home for the holidays; they are my biggest cheerleaders, my greatest critics, my most cherished sources of advice, and the people that make me feel complete. I never laugh more than when all nine of us sit down for dinner and I never feel prouder than when one of my siblings achieves something they have been working towards, whether it’s a college degree or winning the little league championship.
Being from such a large family, my parents set expectations of responsibility, cooperation, and frugality from a young age. These were lessons taught by example of my parents, whose financial literacy became a way of life. I am fortunate to be able to say that even with six siblings, I never went without anything. Beyond the basics of food, shelter, and safety, my parents provided me with private school educations, multiple extracurriculars, and vacations throughout my childhood. We still received financial aid, borrowed and used second-hand sports equipment and instruments, and traveled in our 12-passenger van instead of flying but all this being said, these things still add up quickly.
It was not easy for my parents to make all of this happen. In order to offer me and my siblings everything they could not have growing up, my parents made countless sacrifices. It was a rare occasion when they went out together for a date night, especially since my mom was working night shifts full-time as a nurse. My dad, an engineer, picked up a second job teaching undergraduate courses. My parents have both continued to work incredibly hard so that they can give my youngest siblings the same things I had growing up but with only three of seven kids out of high school, financial strains will only get more difficult to manage.
Education is not something my parents have ever taken lightly. We were taught to make our academics the number one priority and even though it has not always been the fun choice, I am so grateful that this is a lesson I was taught from a young age. My parents sent me and my sisters to a prestigious all-girls high school and even though being referred to as “[insert name]’s little sister” gets old pretty quickly, there are definitely advantages to having multiple siblings take the same class and read the same books year after year. For example, books for English class have been passed down for literally a decade, complete with four sets of reading notes, and are accompanied by four editors eager to read through essays. There is a plethora of advice and guidance on how to study for a certain teacher’s tests and where you can find a quiet study space.
When I moved in for my freshman year at Villanova, I quickly began to miss the comfort of having my siblings so near. I hadn’t realized how much being part of a big family was integrated into my identity. At home I was known and understood but at school I felt lost. Over time, this has changed. I have found a new sort of family at Villanova, composed of the people that offer me loving acceptance in a similar way as I receive it at home. I am so grateful for the people who have helped me find my space at Villanova, but I know if I ever need some tough love or motivation, home is just a phone call away.