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“They’re my best friend:” When Older Siblings Leave for College

Students talk older siblings leaving the nest.
media by River Brown
Connor Brown unpacks his belongings in his new college dorm room Aug. 22. Brown, among other graduates, started his first year of college in late August after graduating from Rock Canyon in May 2023.

By the he beginning of September, classes are underway. We’ve gotten through our first tests, joined clubs and maybe given up on updating our schedules four times a day. Sure, there are some new teachers, but there are some old ones, too. We eat lunch in the cafeteria, struggle with our math homework and come home to our siblings’ empty rooms. 

Wait, I don’t remember that part.

As 537 students left to begin a new chapter of their lives last May, many parents prepared to say farewell to their children.

Siblings prepared to say goodbye.

No more eye rolls, no more pointless fights. But also no more early mornings, no more waves in the hallways. No more late-night talks, no more laughs over inside jokes. Suddenly, it’s much harder to tell your sibling about that person in your English class. It’s much harder to know their room is empty.

“My sister is in South Carolina,” Zoe Chao ‘25 said. Her sister Joy, a former Rock Canyon student, traveled to the East Coast to begin military training at Fort Jackson early in the summer.

“She only gets about an hour to speak on the phone every Sunday,” Chao said. “And that’s if her group behaves. It’s been hard, especially when I see something and I’m reminded of her. I really want to share things with her, but I can’t.”

While some have siblings going across the country, others say goodbye to those who live mere hours away.

“It’s been quieter since [my sister] left,” Chase Knutson ‘27 said. “And it’s been a little sad without [her].”

His sister Berkeley, also a former Canyon student, left for Colorado Christian University Aug. 24. 

“There are some good things,” Knutson said. “But there’s [also] a lot of bad things, too. She’s really nice and she helped me with my homework a lot.”

Knutson’s family keeps in touch with Berkeley via the phone and the occasional weekend visit.

“I have two siblings [out of the house],” Eila Liu ‘25 said. “My sister has been out of the house for about five, six years. Maybe seven. She’s currently in a new graduate college. My brother has been [gone] for about three years.”

While Liu’s brother and sister have been out of the house for longer, she reports she still misses them immensely.

“My sister left a while before my brother did,” Liu said. “[Her leaving] hurt a lot more because she was definitely my role model, she always has been. I shared a room with her, too, so I was constantly reminded that [she left].”

Her sister Yalin, now in medical school, majored in Chemical Engineering. Both of Liu’s older siblings attended the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder.

“With my brother gone, it didn’t hit as hard,” Liu said. “We’re just as close; all of my siblings are, make no mistake, but it just hits differently because we weren’t in the same room. I wasn’t constantly reminded that he left.”

Her brother Alan, another former Canyon student, is currently studying Business at CU Boulder.

Do you have any siblings?


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“He left a lot of [his] things behind,” Liu said. “He has a desk in our kitchen, and [when I miss him], I just stare at it. I think about, probably two weeks after he left, I’d call his name for, food and stuff. It’s kind of like an ongoing longing.”

But, while this transition is hard, many report being happy for their older siblings and what journeys lay ahead.

“I’m most proud of about my siblings is their character, and how much they’ve grown,” Liu said. “I am so proud of how far they’ve come. Both are bold, and confident in their own ways, and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses.”

“I’m proud of how much [my sister] accomplished,” Knutson said. “She really did a lot for me. And I’m glad that she’s going to do some good in life.”


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  • S

    Sam JacotSep 17, 2023 at 11:27 pm

    As a 2023 graduate from Rock Canyon leaving a sister behind for the west coast this left me in tears. Thank you for the wonderful reporting River!

    • R

      River BrownSep 18, 2023 at 2:19 pm

      You are too kind! I am glad you enjoyed the story!