Double graduation a cause for celebration under lockdown
Published on 23 June 2020
Twin sisters Eliza and Melanie Chiswell will this week celebrate all they have achieved at the University of Dundee, despite the cancellation of the Graduation ceremonies they had looked forward to for four years.
Fittingly, both earned 2:1 degrees during their time at Dundee and their identical accomplishments will be toasted by a house full of locked-down well-wishers determined to make the most of the situation.
The coronavirus pandemic caused the University’s Graduation ceremonies – due to take place from Wednesday 24 to Friday 26 June – to be cancelled.
Eliza and Melanie (22) left the flat they shared in Dundee to move back in with their parents in Glasgow when the lockdown was announced, while Melanie’s boyfriend, Cameron, has also been living with the family over the past few months. Meals from the sisters’ favourite restaurant will be delivered to the Chiswells’ house, which has been well-stocked with gin – their favourite tipple – to mark what would have been their Graduation day.
Melanie studied Interior Environmental Design (IED) at the University’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, while Eliza’s degree is in Politics and International Relations. They had not originally planned to go to the same university but that was the way it unfolded over their final year at school.
Melanie’s IED course is the only one of its kind in the UK so she decided upon Duncan of Jordanstone early on, but Eliza had the choice of studying in Glasgow, Aberdeen or Dundee. As she weighed up her options, one factor became increasingly influential.
“Melanie was constantly pushing for me to come to Dundee with her,” said Eliza. “She was saying, ‘come on, you don’t want to stay at home while I’m away’ and when I visited Dundee I thought the campus was fantastic. Melanie and I are very, very close so it made sense. It was the right decision because we’ve had a brilliant time in Dundee. The student environment there is amazing.”
The sisters stayed together in University halls in the first year before sharing flats for the remainder of their studies. They plan on going their separate ways after Graduation, however, with Melanie looking for work as a designer and Eliza planning to study for a Masters degree and ultimately for a career in human rights advocacy.
While disappointed about how their undergraduate journey has ended, the pair remain philosophical about the situation.
“I had been to Cameron’s graduation at the Caird Hall and was really excited for mine,” said Melanie. “It’s not ideal but there are a lot of people worse off than we are and at least we got to go through this final part together.
“I celebrated for the whole weekend when I found out my results so this week will be round two of the celebrations! I think the fact we both got the marks we wanted makes it easier. It’s definitely a good thing that we got the same degrees as well so there’s no sense of disappointment for either of us.
“Because of the course I did, I had a lot of practical work to do. It wasn’t easy making models and the living room was turned into a studio at one point. In one way though, it was quite chilled because if I’d been in Uni I’d have been seeing classmates who were further along with their projects than me and getting caught up in the growing panic. Having Eliza with me definitely helped me get through it.”
Eliza added, “It was easier for me than for Melanie because all I needed was a computer to work from, but it’s very positive that we got through it. Everyone’s circumstances are different but hopefully, the fact we managed to adapt and work under this kind of pressure will stand us in good stead in the future.
“I’m so glad we did this together. People always say it but there’s a strange connection between identical twins. There really is an unbreakable bond between us.”
Eliza and Melanie have also celebrated their birthdays under lockdown. Unusually for twins, they were born on different days, with Eliza having arrived shortly before midnight on 8 May and Melanie making her appearance almost an hour later.
+44 (0)1382 384768G.Hill@dundee.ac.uk