Meet Bri Rotella, a bright face in the hallway

Where were you born?

I was born in Iceland on a military base because my parents served there for about three years. I actually have three birth certificates because of it. I have an American birth certificate because that’s where my family is from, an Icelandic one because that’s my birthplace and, lastly, a military base birth certificate.

What did your parents do in the Navy?

My mom worked with all the technology and radars, and my dad was on the security force. They only worked in the Navy for about six to seven months after I was born.

Did you grow up literally on the military base? What was it like to grow up on a base?

Yeah, we lived in an apartment that was right on the base, and it was so much fun. I was the first baby that they had on the base in a while, so everyone was so friendly and helpful to me and my family as I grew up. I remember there was this wall on the base that was dedicated to me where I could color and draw on it so I wasn’t bored.

What do you remember most about Iceland?

We only stayed in Iceland for about four or five years but I remember the cold temperatures and the ground because there just volcanic rock, not a speck of grass. There were no beaches in Iceland, so the first time I saw a beach was when I moved here. I’ve sadly never visited since.

What’s your fondest memory of Iceland?

It definitely was how there was so much wildlife that you would never see here like puffins, whales and moose.

Was it hard making the move? What was hard about it?

It was hard getting adjusted to a new country because it was vastly different from Iceland. I wasn’t used to the sand, ocean, beach and hot weather. I didn’t speak one word of English coming here, but the transition was fairly smooth, other than I can remember kids would make fun of me for my accent. That still happens once in a while. I was going to Qdoba with my friends the other day, and they all thought I said Qdoba weird, but I didn’t even realize it.

Growing up did your parents teach you Icelandic or American culture and values?

My parents stuck to teaching us about American culture even though we were in Iceland. I remember in the third grade everyone made fun of me because I was the one person not born in Connecticut, and then I was born outside of the country. I didn’t see myself differently at all, so that was a weird feeling.

What was different culturally about Iceland?

From what I can remember there were so many different types of music, orchestras and art galleries. They all pulled together such a wide variety of cultures.

How are people in the two countries different?

The people in Iceland are so much happier and nicer compared to Americans, who are much more judgmental. The town I lived in was so small that everyone knew everybody, and that was really cool. I definitely miss all the friendships I made. Everyone was just so close.

What’s the biggest thing that has happened in your life?

That would probably be coming to America and feeling like I belonged. My first day of school here I met people that I’m friends with to this day, and it was one of my greatest moments. Even though I didn’t speak the language, I felt like I was at home finally because I was surrounded by my friends and family.