By Anne W. Semmes
It was time to check in with the extraordinary Fenili sisters, all having the same birthday, Marea, Aurora, Luna, and Donatella. Six years ago, at age 18, they made history as the first quadruplets to graduate from Greenwich High School. This after only attending their senior year, having come from their native Bologna, Italy, with the need to learn English!
And how uncanny they all were accepted to UCONN Stamford. But now, they are 24! What has been happening in their lives? Where are they, and what are they doing? How wonderful to have their emails. So, off flew my questions to them! Marea Fenili was the first to respond! How enterprising she is!
AS: It’s been six years since you graduated in 2016 from Greenwich High School and entered college with your three sisters at UCONN Stamford. Did you graduate and what was your major?
MF: I graduated from UCONN in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Biology. I was on the pre-med path and did a surgical internship at Columbia University New York Presbyterian Hospital with Dr Lisa Weichmann at the breast cancer surgery department during the summer of 2019. It was an amazing experience that gave me a deep insight into the life of surgeons and the hospital staff. Especially, to see the meaningful relationship between doctors and all their patients made me want to keep on pursuing a career in the medical field.
AS: In what ways did Covid affect your path?
MF: When Covid first started in the spring of 2020 it was my last semester of college. All students were encouraged to move out of campus and all my science classes (including the laboratories) shifted to an online module. I was lucky to have a place to go back to in Cos Cob with my sisters. However, there were some international students and others who didn’t have a place to go and remained at Storrs, at the main campus of the university, where I still had to pay the rent of the apartment I was sharing with two other roommates. During those months until the end of the summer it was hard to stay away from my parents and the rest of my family in Italy, the first country to be drastically affected from Covid in Europe. Thankfully, with technology we could still Facetime.
In the fall after graduation, I went back to Italy to see my family. I was supposed to stay only for one month, but unfortunately me and my family got Covid and after a few weeks my grandma tested positive with some lung complications. So, I extended my time in Italy to keep my grandma’s store open. She has a 50-year-old yarn store in the city center of Bologna. At first, it was a challenge to learn everything about yarn and managing the opening/closing and the register of a store, but after a few days I could finally say I had become a good seller and enjoyed talking with the customers. I kept on working there part-time even after my grandma got better after Covid, up until I went back to the US to get a job as a medical assistant.
AS: What is your work now and where are you living?
MF: In April of 2021 I took a job as a medical assistant at a surgical podology office in New York City. I would wake up every morning at 5:45 a.m. to take the train for the city with all the other commuters and take a five-minute walk to the office from Grand Central Station. I loved my job, especially interacting with patients and helping the surgeons. I kept on walking there until I suffered from an accidental work injury that September and had to stay home for three months. Unfortunately, it took me a little longer to recover and by Christmas time I decided to go back to Italy to spend some time with my family and to take some science classes required for my application to physician assistant school. Now I’m staying at my parents’ house in Bologna, and I will be going back to the U.S. in September to get another job as a medical assistant.
AS: How have you spent your summers? Where all have you traveled?
MF: This summer of 2022 I tried to visit as many places as possible before going back to my work life in the U.S. I visited a friend now a stewardess living in London. It was my first time in London and luckily the weather was perfect – it never rained! I spent the days walking around Hyde Park and went to the historical museum. Then I went to Madrid in Spain for a few days with eight of my friends to visit one of our friends now working there. We went to the Reina Sofia Museum, walked around the El Retiro Park, and tried a lot of the local food, such as pimientos del padron, tortillas, and churros. This summer I have also focused on expanding my passion for video making and storytelling. I have been interviewing people from Bologna, especially historic store owners who are still working, to know how they started their business and what keeps them motivated to work. I would like to keep doing these types of interviews in the U.S. if possible.
AS: How intertwined has your life been with your sisters?
MF: Since the beginning of college, we have all had busy schedules with different jobs and school classes. In the first two years of college, we were all still living in our apartment in Cos Cob with a brief commute to the UCONN Stamford campus. Then, in the third and fourth years of college, I moved to the main UCONN campus, at Storrs, which is two hours and a half away from us. Sometimes it would feel lonely to be away from my sisters, but at the same time it was very helpful to focus on the hard science classes I was taking.
After graduation when I took my first job as a medical assistant, I was also alone most of the times because Luna and Donatella were living in Italy, while Aurora was working in Greenwich parttime three days a week. And since I was commuting each day from the city, I would be too tired to spend time with her at night. I believe this time working away from my sisters was very significant for my personal growth. I had always been a quiet kid and would rely on my sisters to talk for me with other people growing up. After all these months talking with patients, I noticed that I had learned to be more talkative also with my friends and knew how to speak with new people more easily. Luckily, at the time I suffered from the work injury, all my sisters were back at home in Cos Cob, so they helped me a lot during the whole recovery period. The activity that we enjoy the most together is going to the movies, which is something we would always do with our parents back in Italy.
AS: What do you plan for this fall?
MF: I am coming back to the U.S. in September, and I am planning to get a job as a medical assistant in order to finish the patient care hours required for my physician assistant school application.
AS: What have been the highlights in your life these six years?
MF: Some of the highlights of these six years have been the Columbia University surgery internship, graduating from college, working in the city as a medical assistant, and visiting Europe during the summers.