Lotta Nevalainen is a fifth year senior from Finland, student athlete, and is double majoring in international studies and communications.
What other places have you traveled in your life?
I have traveled to about 30 countries, including many places in Europe, South Korea, Australia and Morocco.
Did you find anything difficult before or after traveling abroad? What was it?
Coming to the U.S. was a big change for me, especially coming to North Carolina, but I love the southern hospitality. Everyone is so nice, although small talk was a bit uncomfortable for me at first; you just have to get used to it. It was a help that I spoke a little English. At first I was uncomfortable speaking another language, so I did not get to show my personality as much.
Did you have a lot of support about leaving Finland and coming to the U.S.?
My brother was my inspiration. He’s seven years older than me and I was quite young when he left, but my parents knew it was my dream. I talked about it for years, so they knew it was going to happen. They knew that it would be better for me to keep studying and swimming rather than staying at home and having to give one of them up.
How has your life changed after traveling?
It has widened my world view a lot, especially here with the politics and religion, which is very different than back in Finland. I’m able to look at things from different perspectives and respect them. You have to understand that people grow up differently and have had different views. That’s part of traveling and meeting people from different countries.
Was money an issue when thinking about traveling?
I came here on a swimming scholarship. Without that it definitely would have been. I would have never left Finland if I didn’t have it.
What are you most proud of today?
Taking the leap of faith and coming to the U.S., because that definitely wasn’t easy. It may have been a dream, but I’m happy that I did it. It’s been the best thing I ever did.