This summer the Athletics Department is featuring several graduated seniors with reflections on their careers at Rice University. The second installment features Anniina Ala-Seppälä of the swim team.
By: Anniina Ala-Seppälä
My teammate, then a junior, Marissa Konicke, picked me up from the airport at 1 am screaming my name with a welcome sign in hand. She had never met me before.
I almost cried.
All my life I’ve felt a little on the outside, but when I came to Rice I felt immediately accepted. Nerdy and driven was suddenly cool, and I loved it. Rice was the first place I really belonged to, and the “you do you” attitude was what I love most.
The whole team was open to listening and helping out anytime I needed it. Any time I was sick someone would get me Gatorade and saltines, and whenever we needed to go someplace, one of the upperclassmen would drive us car-less freshmen. All the training trips, late night fro-yo runs and just hanging out with friends really are the memories I cherish the most. I wouldn’t have made it through without them – they truly were my family away from home.
In Europe, we don’t have college sports. There also is close to no school spirit like there is in the United States. As far as school goes, there is no homework and no mandatory participation to lectures. As long as you show up for the scheduled test, it’s all good.
The constant socializing was the biggest adjustment for me. Coming from a country where most people like maintaining their distance and having lots of me-time, having someone around 24/7 was very taxing for me.
All the homework the university required also took some getting used to. I went through textbooks with a dictionary in the other hand for a good two semesters. I’m also stubborn, so that’s how I got through. I literally just refused to get mediocre grades.
Swimming was the other challenge. Training in the States is very very different from what I was used to at home, and I didn’t do a good job communicating what I needed with my coaches.
It wasn’t until my third year that I figured out how to make swimming work for myself at Rice. Communication and honesty with my coaches was the key.
I’m obviously proud of my academic success, but all my best memories are those where I was having the time of my life with my teammates and friends.
I took a leap of faith coming to Rice and I have not regretted the decision I made for a second. I’ll be coming back to Houston and Rice in December! I’m happy to know I’ll be coming back to Rice soon to see my team.