Jessica Hennigan went from a BIG family to an even bigger one when joining Hawk Hill. People who are the middle child in their family sometimes feel like they don’t get the best familial experience compared to their siblings. However, some would like to argue that the middle child gets the best of both worlds, especially this SJU Hawk.

Jessica with her brothers, sister, and dog Sprinkles. Photo taken

Jessica Hennigan, a freshman at Saint Joseph’s University, is the 6th out of 8 siblings in her family. She has four sisters: Meghan, Kerry, Kate, Natalie, and three brothers: Christopher, Zack, and Bryan. In addition to all of her siblings, Jessica also has three young nephews. Though most of her siblings have flown out of their family nest, the chaotic energy of a large family prevails and Jessica has learned a lot from it. 

Jessica and her family. Photo taken by a family friend.

While Jessica is at home in Landsdale PA, she lives with her Mom, Grandmom, and two of her younger siblings. Because her family is so large, Jessica can only see her siblings individually, and she looks forward to the holiday’s when she can enjoy her whole family together in one happy space. Some of Jessica’s siblings attend school, others work full time jobs, and some have even gone on to raise families of their own, continuing the Hennigan legacy. Leaving this big support system behind was definitely the most bitter part of going to college, but as the saying goes, a bird must leaves the nest…or a hawk in this case.

Though it was difficult to leave her loved ones, part of Jessica felt relieved that she now has the space to enjoy time to herself. Having a big family has also benefited Jessica in her college life because she is used to sharing bathrooms, and living with lots of people, especially in a loud setting.

“Honestly, being at Saint Joe’s is a breath of fresh air because it’s so quiet. My house is always so loud and chaotic 24/7 because there are so many people.” 

Jessica currently lives in Sourin Hall, a freshman suite-style dorm on campus. On move in day, Jessica elaborated how difficult it was to part ways with her loved ones.

“All of my siblings came into my room and we all took pictures sitting on my bed. It was heartbreaking seeing my siblings sad because I was leaving but I was excited to start college and I knew I was ready for this big change.” 

When Jessica attended high school she didn’t stress about the workload at school, but the helter-skelter vibe at home did put a strain on her psyche. But now that her workload has increased in college and she isn’t surrounded by her tribe, the tables have turned and Jessica must strive to manage her at home relationships. Generally, Jessica will Facetime her sister, Kate, who feels she is the closest with, who will then share the call with whoever is around.

Jessica and sisters before her high school graduation. Photo taken by Jessica’s mom.

“Staying in contact with my 7 siblings is hard while balancing my school work. But, the bond between all of us is so strong that we don’t need to talk all the time. I find myself focusing on my classes and adjusting to life on campus instead of talking to my family every day.” 

Being the 6th out of 8 children has been a good experience for Jessica because she has learned to be a mediator and problem solver, which are not skills you can easily learn,

“My advice to incoming freshman moving away from their big families is to remain positive and focus on the new beginning. It’s relieving to know that I will always have my family to fall back on when I need to, but as a freshman you have to focus on yourself and your new environment.” 

Jessica’s advice to future freshmen going to college is to be optimistic, outgoing, go out of your comfort zone, be approachable and know that all freshmen are in the same boat as you. She assures incoming freshman that everyone gets through it.

“The hardest thing about transitioning to college is definitely leaving my family, but I know they will always have my back. I do miss having my family instantly be my friends, so not having someone to always talk to nearby is hard too. But I grew up to be independent when my parents could not give their total attention to me. My independence helped with my transition too because I did not rely on other people to do everything for me.”

Her tips were to be present in class and to stay off your phone when surrounded by new people in order to make conversations with the ones around you. This Hawk is eager to achieve great successes throughout her college career and is creating a new home on Hawk Hill, but Jessica knows that home will always be wherever her family is.


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