Hannah and Elena Petrie, twins at Upper Columbia Academy, have spent their lives all around the world. Born in the Philippines, they have also lived in Myanmar, Bulgaria, Japan, Mexico and Ecuador. After that exotic upbringing, they have found a home in Spangle.
Their parents both worked for the U.S. State Department, father as a medical officer and mother a consular associate, and their postings, for three years at a time, gave the girls cultural experiences of which most people can only dream.
Most of the time, they attended international schools, where half the students were from the country where they resided and the other half children of diplomats. But two years ago, when their parents retired to Montana, the family decided that UCA was the right place for Hannah and Elena to spend their final two years of high school. Their dad, aunt, and uncle all graduated from Upper Columbia.
The girls appreciate all their international experiences and enjoy sharing them with their classmates.
“Because I lived in so many places,” Elena said, “I’m able to appreciate not only the differences that people have, but also their universal qualities. I learned to appreciate different foods, culture and music. People everywhere are different, but in many ways the same.”
Hannah said that all their different experiences made it easier to come to UCA with only two years of high school remaining.
“We grew up moving around, so we were always the new kids,” she said. “It made us good at making new friends. The only part that was difficult was living away from our parents in a dorm.”
Both girls said their classmates want to know what life was like in other cultures. Most of them haven’t had similar experiences, so they are naturally curious, Hannah said.
They both made an immediate impact on the school, UCA Dean of Women Stephanie Gladding said.
“It’s unusual for someone to come in halfway through their high school career and make the impact Hannah and Elena did,” Gladding said. “Within a couple months of being here, they jumped into leadership positions.
“Both girls are resident assistants in our dorms. Elena is our tutoring RA, monitoring students with low grades and helping them to improve. I’m amazed by her integrity, and by how she goes out of her way to help others without expecting anything in return.
“Hannah is bubbly, fun and cheerful, and people are just drawn to her. She’s an RA with sophomores and juniors in a hall with 23 girls, and they go to her for advice and help.”
Hannah plans to attend Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, next fall, majoring in International Rescue and Relief, a unique focus that’s offered only at Union. She’ll have a pre-physical therapy emphasis in her studies. Elena will attend Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, taking a pre-veterinary medicine major in animal science.
Elena said she and her sister always assumed they would go different directions after high school because of their different interests, so separating may not be as difficult as some would assume. Anywhere they are, the Petrie twins are ready to change the world.
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