Twin sisters Faiza and Sabah Jivani, Class of 2010 alumna from Tulare, are busy planning for the future. They're applying to graduate schools this fall; Faiza plans a career in architecture and Sabah in dentistry.
But they don't forget what brought them to this point. Though they also mention cousins and friends, they give credit first to their parents, whom Faiza called "ultimate friends in all parts and walks of life."
"They have been supportive through all of my decisions," she said.
One of the biggest decisions was where to attend college. They considered UC Merced and UC Irvine.
"UC Merced was closer to home and financially more affordable because there were two of us," Sabah recalled. "Also, when we looked at the student teacher ratio, and the prospect of establishing the culture and traditions for the school, we leapt at the opportunity. It was one of the best decisions of my life."
After starting out with two different majors, they discovered a shared interest in cognitive science because of the wide span of topics covered in the field. They changed after learning they could satisfy the entrance requirements for their planned graduate programs as cognitive science majors.
Changing majors had its challenges, the sisters said, but supportive friends and faculty members like Professor Teenie Matlock helped. While they appreciated Matlock's lively personality and sense of humor, what impressed them most was her openness to different ideas. They attribute that to the interdisciplinary nature of cognitive science.
"Studying cognitive science, there must be an appreciation for different studies, and how they affect our lives," Faiza said.
They also treasure memories of time spent outside the classroom. They remember classes in the California Room, as well as watching the progress of each new building on campus. The Leo and Dottie Kolligian Library , the Classroom and Office Buildling, the Science and Engineering Building, the Joseph Edward Gallo Recreation and Wellness Center , and the Sierra Terraces residence halls have all been completed during their time here.
Faiza spent four years in Dance Coalition, the first dance team at UC Merced, and served three years as a student representative on the Campus Physical Planning Committee.
Sabah fondly remembers her time on the Student Planning Board, organizing the first winter formals and themed fashion shows. She also overcame some serious adversity - with help from a serious support network.
"My first semester I fractured my left ankle," she remembered. "During my sophomore year, I had a minor slipped disc in my back, which kept me out of school for a month. Then my senior year I dislocated my kneecap.
"Luckily, I had all the academic assistance I needed from my professors and T.A.s. And my friends and family were all there for me when I asked, and especially when I least expected it."
All their experiences at UC Merced have given the Jivanis confidence and maturity. Four years can change a lot of things - from improved study habits to a direct, fearless approach in conversation with a new person. But one aspect of life remains constant for the sisters: they'll always have each other.
"People always ask how it is to be twins, and I say it's like having a perma-friend," Faiza said. "There are ups and downs, but we'll never stop loving each other."