Where Worlds and Woes Collide: An Interview with Hannah Zhang ’27

Parrish September 11, 2018 on the campus of Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, PA. (Photo by Emma Ricci-De Lucca ’21)

There’s two of us. 

We share a first name, a last name, a mailbox. She gets emails meant for me, I get emails meant for her. Swarthmore is having a hard time telling us apart — and to be honest, as the days pass, I’m starting to do the same. 

Occasionally, I’ll close my eyes and see foggy scenes from her life. When we bump into each other at Narples or under the Kohlberg overhang, I can hear her thoughts and she speaks mine aloud. Before the metaphysical boundary between our minds is punctured and our consciousnesses combine to form one Super Hannah Zhang, I took the chance to interview my freshman doppelganger in the hopes that our peers and we ourselves will be able to tell us apart.

Hannah Zhang ’26: So, how are you feeling today?

Hannah Zhang ’27: Feeling good, it’s a little rainy, my shoes are soggy…

’26: Do you remember how we first interacted on Instagram?

’27: Yeah, it was because some guy tagged me in a photo. And I was like, “Who is this?” Because the photo was like, “Here’s a poem sent to me by Hannah Zhang from Swarthmore.” And then I saw it and I was like, “I did not send this man a poem!”

’26: [Laughs] Yeah.

’27: Like, where’d you get the poem? And then I looked up Swarthmore’s [Instagram] followers and found you and followed you there.

’26: No yeah, I had to dig back into my emails to find his name. But it was Jason Singh, he’s a nature beatboxer, and he visited Swat and I wrote a poem inspired by some of the stuff he talked to us about. Then he asked me if he could tag me on Instagram, and I was like, “yeah, just search ‘Hannah Zhang Swarthmore.’” Miraculously there happened to be two, and he chose the other one … and then you sent me a message and I was like, “What the heck is happening?” It was crazy. 

’26 again: Okay, so the purpose of this interview is to help people tell us apart, and also remind us of our former selves when we inevitably merge into a single being, is that cool with you?

’27: [Nodding in complete understanding] Yes.

’26: All right, great. So tell me a bit about where you’re from!

’27: Um, well I’m from Chester County, where the … murderer was? A week ago?

’26: THE — oh my god, yeah. I forgot about that.

At the time of this interview, an escaped murderer was tracked down in Chester County a week ago.

’27: Yeah I live, like, half an hour away. Last week I went home and just stayed for the weekend and came back.

’26: That’s great! And I guess for the interview’s purposes, I’m from Basking Ridge, NJ, which is kinda central-ish? It’s good to live close, I think. A lot of my friends are international students or come from the West Coast, and I just … that could not be me. I don’t understand how they can handle it.

’26 again: What are you thinking about majoring in? 

’27: Maybe statistics and computer science? I wanted to take a computer science course this semester, but I got lotteried out…

’26: [Winces] The lottery system here is so brutal.

’27: Yeah…

’26: I so highly respect STEM people, you could not catch me taking more than one STEM class a year. I mean, I’m taking astronomy right now, and it’s the most philosophical science.

’27: I feel like that’s what I did with logic. Like, it’s the most STEM humanities class!

’26: Are there any clubs or extracurriculars you’re participating in? 

’27: Um, I’m in Garnet Singers and the chorus … I might join Anime Club though—

’26: That’s so good! Oh my god.

’27: [Laughs] But I don’t really watch anime. I’ve only watched one show, “Your Lie in April.”

’26: Oh, that’s a classic. 

I have not watched “Your Lie in April”.

’26 again: And I guess for interview purposes, I’m co-captain of Badminton Club, and before last year ended, one of my fellow officers was like, “Oh my god, you should invite the other Hannah Zhang to join the club,” and I felt like that would make things so hard.

’27: [Laughs] Hannah Zhang vs. Hannah Zhang! Some of my friends were talking about it, and she was like, “Wait, it’s run by Hannah Zhang?”

’26: [Does the Debby Ryan hair thing] Yeah, there’s another one … these next couple years [of overlapping names] are going to be … exciting, I guess.

’27: Yeah.

’26: Okay, now for some more run-of-the-mill differentiating questions. Favorite color?

’27: Pink.

’26: Oh, excellent. Mine’s blue-green. Favorite food?

’27: Ooh, I like xiao long bao. 

’26: [Whispering] That’s so real. I was going to say—

’27: But I can’t decide!

’26: Yeah, because I have a favorite Chinese food, favorite American food … so your favorite Chinese food would be xiao long bao, right? Mine would be yan shui ya. Favorite American food — or favorite Narples food?

’27: I like the garlic chicken … alfredo? 

’26: Oh yeah, I’m a Narples pasta fanatic. All right. Hobbies?

’27: I like to sing and I like to read.

’26: I love that, because I love to listen to music and write.

’27: [Laughs] Oh my gosh!

’26: So you sing and I listen, and then I write and you read? That’s perfect!

’27: That’s funny.

’26: Do you know how tall you are?

’27: Um … five [foot] three? Point … seven?

’26: Okay, that’s so — like literally — I’m basically five zero, which I’m so incensed about, but like I’m always saying, “I’m actually five zero point … like, four eight.” [Laughs]

’27: I always need to include a decimal!

’26: This one time, they measured me with my shoes and said I was five one, I was like, “YES!”

’27: [Laughs] They did that to me at school one time, they said I was five four!

’26: [Laughs] Okay, so we have this in common … getting gaslit by our doctors.

’27: Yes, yes.

’26: That’s great. Okay, describe your fashion sense for our readers. So I’m usually wearing the same couple jackets and cool colors, so I stick out like a sore thumb, but are there any distinct style elements of yours that’ll help people pick you out of a crowd?

’27: I don’t know, I always have jeans, or either a sweatshirt or a flannel. I’ve been trying to fix my style, though.

’26: How so?

’27: In high school, my old t-shirts were from, like, middle school, and they said stuff like “Swimming Olympics, Sixth Grade!”

’26: Yeah I have, like, “Cape Cod 2018.”

’27: Yeah, all my shirts say “2017” or “2018.”

’26: I love that, because it shows that we stopped growing at the exact same time. Glad we have that in common as well. Okay, so that’s all the questions I have for now. We’ve got some similarities, like being short, being sad about it…

’27: Yeah.

’26: Finally. The arm wrestle.

’27: [Laughs] Oh no!

’26: To determine the alpha Hannah Zhang. Ready — are you a righty? Lefty?

’27: I’m a righty.

’26: Okay, good. Ready … go!

After an embarrassing 40-second struggle, each of us inching back and forth like the climactic battle in a movie about the power of friendship, we decided to try again with our left hands. Thirty seconds into that, I used a final gambit to save my pride: I suggested a truce, and we each let go of the other’s hands and laughed as we shook off our aching arms. 

One day Swarthmore will return to having just one Hannah Zhang — five-foot one-point-nine or so and clothed in horrifically clashing pink and blue-green — with a dual consciousness arm-wrestling for eternity in its brain. She’ll be a statistics-classics double major and despise both STEM and the humanities, and her two families will freak out when the dean informs them that their daughters have merged. 

But since that day hasn’t yet come, we parted ways and went about our own business. We ought to cherish our time as individual beings — who knows when it will end?

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