Near death experiences, hours spent chatting in Sci-Li, and sunsets on Foss Hill are just some of the memories Jake and Jack (not to be confused with former Vine stars Jack and Jack) Kwon will take with them when they graduate in the spring. A birthday isn’t the only thing these twins have in common; from friends to their senior wood frame, Jack and Jake have lived the ultimate shared Wesleyan adventure.
TA: What’s it like going to the same college as your twin, and what led you to decide to go to the same school?
*They look at each other and laugh*
Jake: Yes, I’ll go. During our high school years, we applied to the same schools and it was like an unspoken promise: we decided that whatever schools we get into, we’ll choose the one that we both get into. Surprisingly, we ended up getting into the same schools. So it was kind of easy to choose which one we wanted to go to, and that ended up being Wesleyan. I think it’s really nice to be both on campus. Especially coming into freshman year, it’s always kind of unnerving to get a new roommate or someone new to live with, so it was nice knowing that I had a brother who I’ve known for my whole life to just kind of live with so that part of the college experience was really smooth in that sense….[it] has been really helpful just kind of navigating because we are first-gen students. So it’s just been really helpful to have someone else experience the college experience along with me. That’s what I think. What about you?
Jack: Same thing here. I guess it was kind of like bringing a part of home with me, since I didn’t really know what it was going to be like up here. We hadn’t visited any colleges before. And so this was all a very new thing for us, choosing a college that’s up in the North rather than the South because we’re from Georgia and we really didn’t know how it was going to be. It was a last-minute decision that we made, and I think it was a good decision because it was kind of away from home. It was either between…Wesleyan or Emory and I think it’s nice that we’re away from family and experiencing these things by ourselves. And I don’t know, it’s just nice having someone I knew on campus. We made similar friend groups anyway, so it’s always nice to have someone who I know and [can] be really comfortable around with.
TA: What majors are you guys?
Jack: MB&B, which is molecular biology and biochemistry, and the College of Integrative Sciences.
Jake: You also have a certificate, right?
Jack: Yeah—IGS, which is Integrative Genomics Sciences, but I usually don’t say that one.
Jake: Well, I have a minor and I say it. I’m double majoring in Biology and English and my minor is in Chemistry. And I’m also on the pre-med track and I’m applying to med school right now.
TA: That’s exciting.
Jake: It’s very stressful.
TA: Can you talk a little bit about the research you do, and what it’s like to be a research assistant, what your experience has been with that?
Jack: For me, I started in the Weir lab my spring semester—
Jake: Spring semester of…?
Jack: My freshman year. Sorry, *laughs* and I’ve been interested in bio and research ever since my high school years. I did a lot of biotech club stuff back then, so I knew I wanted to do research when I came to college. It was fairly easy finding someone that was willing to take somebody in. I’ve been doing research since my freshman year spring, and I spent the past three summers in the lab doing the same research…. It’s a lot of like doing the same things over and over again until I get good results. It’s frustrating in that aspect if like, I don’t get the results that I need. I’ll just be kind of sad and mopey until I get the results that I need. It takes time and I’ve learned that over high school as well. So I enjoy it. It’s not bad, but I think I’m ready to move on to new research topics after I graduate.
TA: So, from the research that we’ve done on the two of you…. Jake, it says you’re a certified Phlebotomy Technician. What is that?
Jake: I put that in freshman year and I have not taken it out. So that was fun. I was a certified phlebotomist technician in high school. It was part of a clinical internship. We have a pathway that you start freshman year, and once you get to senior year, you start doing hospital rotations. You draw blood from patients and you only have to do, I think 25 patients and like 10 of them have to be drawing blood from I believe a sugar test — like a glucose test — from their hands and so it was very easy to get certified. Then you have to take a really hard test for it just to know that you’re kind of sufficient and know your details about blood and blood formation, but that was very long ago and my certification has since expired and I have not renewed it.
TA: Since you guys are both in STEM, I was just wondering if, like, the current pandemic has changed your outlook on its importance, or what you guys think you want to do at all?
Jack: For me, I think it’s kind of shifted towards that. I’ve met someone in a computer science kind of company and he does a lot of programming for clinical laboratories that are doing COVID-19 tests. And I think I might visit those facilities and see if I like what they’re doing. But for sure this pandemic has changed my outlook on what I might do in the future. I think it’s very interesting.
TA: Jake, are you on the Wesleyan Student Assembly [WSA] this semester?
Jake: I’m not…I actually left last year, but I’ve been in it for three years, so for a majority of my Wesleyan experience.
TA: And what have you done on the WSA? What was that experience kind of like in general?
Jake: I really actually enjoyed it. Coming in freshman year, they really encourage you to pursue independent projects and kind of think outside the box in terms of improving student life on campus. And for me, I was a part of the Committee of Academic Affairs for all three years, and in my junior year, I actually became the Chair of Academic Affairs and became part of the leadership board. I also started the Textbook Exchange program with a couple of other peers and I’m still running that now. It’s been really cool to see how a small thought project that I had in freshman year turned into a really big one that I hope has a positive presence and impact here. I think it really has made me grow into a person, thinking about problems that we have on campus and how we can collectively mobilize resources on campus whether it be through students, student organizations, or administration, [to] kind of put our heads together and find ways in which we can solve issues. I think in that way it’s been really beneficial.
TA: So Jack, can you explain to me what Nietzsch Factor is?
Jack: It’s the Men’s Ultimate Frisbee team. I’ve played on it since freshman year because I started when I was a freshman in high school and I love the sport and wanted to continue playing. I joined immediately as a freshman. I’m actually a captain with it now. We play with other D3 teams around the Northeast region and it’s a lot of fun. I’d say we have a good group of guys and it’s also a good way to meet other people. It always has a great community of people. Even back home, I play, like, pick up with other people around the area and it’s just awesome because I get to meet other people through the sport, which is something that I enjoy doing.
TA: Jake, you received the Tokita Prize for Literature. Could you speak about that a little and how it works?
Jake: Yeah, of course. The prize is for students of color who are eligible for financial aid and you have to write an essay on a prompt that they give you. The prompt I believe that I wrote on was something along the lines of “How I will use my major (which is English) to make literature accessible to people of all backgrounds?” So I touched on my background as a person of color in academia. Ever since high school, reading works that are very Eurocentric and center around white voices—white male voices to be more specific—has kind of shaped what my own voice sounded like. Imitating those voices, which were glorified in the literary American canon, and which I thought would help me succeed. That kind of view changed when I got to Wesleyan where my English professors kind of told me that centering my voice in the literary dialogue would not only bring out my voice but also help me kind of foster my own space within a field that is primarily dominated by white voices. That’s kind of what I wrote on, and how I want to help others in power or help others be empowered in their own voice and help that be more accessible in terms of being able to find their own space to do so. That’s kind of what I touched on in my essay.
TA: What do you both love most about Wes and what will you miss about Wes?
Jack: For me, I think what I enjoy most is probably Ultimate Frisbee. It’s just a good community of guys and people and so it’s just a fun space to be around and they’ve just made being on campus much more enjoyable. We travel outside on the weekends to places for two days and we’re just stuck in this dingy hotel or motel and like watching random shows and eating a bunch of junk food. It’s like the best way to spend a weekend for me. Coming back at like 12:00 in the morning to do homework. I think I’ll look back at it with nostalgia…. I’ve had near-death experiences on my way back to campus. Driving in the snow is the worst experience, but at the same time, I think it’ll be the most memorable and these guys are friends that I’ll have— friendships that I’ll continue to foster after graduating as well. I’ll keep in contact with a lot of these people from this team moving forward as well, which is the one big thing I want to take away from being at Wes. There are so many great people here and I’m just glad that I made these friendships by joining this team and I think it’s going to be one of the most memorable things that I take away from Wes. Also the dining. I think the food is underrated. A lot of people complain about Usdan and Summies but it’s really good. Sometimes I’m back home and I just like miss going to Usdan with the frisbee team or going to Summies with my brother because we both rave about Summies food all the time. Yeah, probably those two things.
Jake: I think for me it’s the open curriculum and that sounds really nerdy, but I just really enjoyed exploring the different disciplines and different classes that Wes has to offer. And I think because of that curriculum, it really allowed me to expand my worldview and the different perspectives, and that’s also one of the reasons why I’m majoring in English. Before coming to Wes I was strictly biology and nothing else and I thought nothing would stop me, and well here I am, double majoring in English. And so I think I’m just really appreciative of Wes for opening my mind up to that. Secondly, I think I have to agree. I really enjoy Summies, I don’t know why…. Some people hate it, they think it’s so bad, but I think I’m really going to miss their fries and if I were to pick one menu item from Summies, I think it would have to be the fried chicken sandwich.
TA: Do you guys have a favorite spot on campus? If it’s Summies, that’s great, or somewhere else?
Jack: I think for like an everyday thing Swings is definitely good. It’s like up there, but if I had to eat it every day I don’t think it’d be so nice for me. I think it would Summies for me. Great dessert selection.
Jake: Wait, what about favorite place on campus?
Jack: Dining, what do you mean? Just any favorite place on campus?
Jack: I think it’s Foss Hill, because for me, that’s where we practiced during the fall semester. It’s always fun running up and down that hill for conditioning but after practice just like sitting there and looking at the sunset. It’s just beautiful. We finish up practice around 6:30 and we watch the sunset and then we go to eat at Usdan so it’s like the perfect way to end the day.
Jake: I think SciLi for me.
Jake: I think there’s just a lot of memories in that library. I spent so many nights there, like sometimes in a single, sometimes at a table and it’s also like you can also get a sunset view when you’re studying there. So yeah, I think I would have to say SciLi.
Jack: You do talk quite a lot. So it’s not just a study space for him. He talks so much. He could spend literally an hour there and you’ll be walking around, you know….
Jake: Okay, you can stop.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Sophie Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Talia Zitner can be reached at email@example.com