Trinity University staff member’s ambition translates into Olympic journey to Russia

After an extensive application process and a long wait, Inessa Stepanenko, assistant director of International Student & Scholar Services, leaves for the Winter Olympics tomorrow.

“A couple of years ago I had applied for a position like this in my hometown of Sochi, and when the location was finally decided I was really excited,” Stepanenko said.

Stepanenko is going to be traveling under her own finances as she takes an unpaid leave of absence to Russia for what she calls a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience.

Stepanenko is fluent in Spanish, Russian and English, and is acquainted with a variety of other languages such as Chinese, Italian and Japanese. She also worked for the United Nations as an interpreter in Russia.

Stepanenko worked hard to get assigned to the United States team for the Olympics by attempting to reach out several times to the Olympic committee board. After several months, she found Trinity alumnus Terris Tiller, who worked on the head committee in Colorado, and got together with him to speed up the process. They are going to coordinate wearing Trinity clothes and advertise some sort of Trinity spirit in the opening ceremony, if allowed.

Stepanenko revealed that the application process was stressful with all of the requirements and due dates.

“The application process was very intense and there were a lot of deadlines and forms,” Stepanenko said.

Stepanenko had to complete numerous interviews over Skype, where her current vernacular and overall language expertise were tested. As assistant director of the international community here at Trinity, she also has experience with advising international students.

Stepanenko believes that the International Olympic Committee picked Sochi because of the city’s climate variety. Sochi is a prime piece of land that features both mountainous and coastal regions. They subdivided the different sports into three camps: mountainous, coastal and endurance. Stepanenko believes that she is going to be assigned to the mountainous village even though she would like to be in the coastal region.

For anyone that wants to get involved in such endeavors, Stepanenko suggests creating an account on LinkedIn and networking from there. She also has a Facebook page called “Inessa’s Journey” where the Trinity community can follow her Olympic journey. She will have status updates and pictures on the page. Stepanenko also added that the Trinity faculty and staff are highly supportive of her decision to go to Sochi.

First year Chinmay Chobhe said that he has always wanted to go to the Olympics.

“I’m glad to have known someone who is actually going there and participating in what seems like an integral part of the games,” Chobhe said.

First year Alex Rojas is also excited for Stepanenko as she begins her Olympic journey.

“This is really Inessa’s golden opportunity, and I’m going to be following this story very closely in the coming weeks,” Rojas said.