Triplets find bond strengthened through similarity


Photo courtesy of Frances Ponicki

The Ponicki triplets while they were younger. The sisters were known throughout their community as identical triplets, but they now consistently meet astonishment on the streets from passersby when they see the triplets walking on campus.

By Megan Bradley, Staff Writer

Growing up, Frances, Mary and Theresa Ponicki never thought anything of sharing things, from clothing down to their birthdays.

The identical triplets, all juniors in Engineering, came to the University together. The three sisters are often greeted with surprised expressions from people who are less familiar with seeing triplets.

“Growing up, when we were in kindergarten, kindergartners just accept everything as normal. So going from that and through high school, it was super normal for us to be triplets. Everybody in the community was like, ‘Oh, there they go,’” Frances said. “But when we got to college, it was kind of like a new frontier. We’ll be walking down the street and people will stop us.”

The sisters said they always felt fortunate to have each other while growing up, because it was like having a best friend at all times.

Even now at the University, the sisters consider themselves best friends and do most things together. They go to class, do homework and even studied abroad as a trio in Australia.

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When they arrived in Champaign,  the Ponickis chose not to live together, but they lived on the same floor in Newman Hall. They still do not live with one another, but they spend a lot of time together.

Due to the systems engineering curriculum, most of their classes are the same. Because of this, the sisters are used to doing homework and studying together.

“In high school, we didn’t see a whole lot of each other unless it was lunch or after-school dinner,” Frances said. “But we knew, because we were taking similar classes in high school, that when we worked together we performed really strongly, so going to university together was kind of a good move for us.”

It may be hard for some people to tell the identical triplets apart, but Mary said the best way to tell them apart is to spend time with them.

The sisters do not get easily annoyed with each other, but reactions from other people can be irritating.

“I think the most frustrating part is when you lose the individualism within the group dynamic — when other people lose it because we don’t lose it,” Mary said.

The sisters said they have endless funny stories of people mixing them up, but one of the most memorable happened when they studied abroad and visited Cannes.

Theresa said the island they traveled to was a popular tourist destination with a large amount of international visitors who had never seen triplets before.

When the sisters were spotted on the boat, some of the other tourists started filming and taking pictures of them until they got to the island.

“When we got to the beach, the family found us because they didn’t like their photo, and we were like, ‘Yeah, that’s fine, we’ll take a photo.’ And we get together on the beach with this girl and I just watched all these people in the water, their heads just snapped up, and people were literally running across the beach, grabbing their cameras and forming a line,” Theresa said.

To a lesser extent, the sisters experience the same amusement around the University by people who have not met them before.

Mary said reactions range from people thinking it is cool for them to all be at the same school and in the same program to people being shocked or horrified. The sisters all agreed that one of the most frustrating reactions they receive from people is “shock horror.”

The triplets, who have one older sister, said their parents have always been very supportive of their decisions and it provides them with some comfort knowing their daughters are all together.

“(Our parents) were just really excited that we were all going here together,” Mary said. “Plus, it makes it easier for our family to visit when they want to see us.”

Although they each have different goals for their futures in engineering, the systems engineering degrees which they will graduate with allows them to be flexible in their studies and concentrations.

In the future, Frances said she thinks they would all like to live near each other, but it is up in the air depending on where each of them gets a job.

The sisters said they have a strong group dynamic and similar interests, which works well in any activity they undertake.

“We have such a strong group dynamic that it made sense to our family and friends that we were going to the same university,” Theresa said. “We could have split up, but it made sense just because we work so well together and we are such close friends.”

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