My name is Tim, and I’m a student of Geography & Social Anthropology here at Edinburgh. I’ll be departing shortly (next Saturday, in fact; the 6th of August) to begin my Erasmus exchange at Tallinn University in Estonia. My exchange is somewhat distinctive due to the fact that Tallinn is a new exchange link with Edinburgh, and thus I’ll the first Edinburgh student to spend a year abroad there. It’s also worth noting that I’m an overseas student at Edinburgh already (I’m from the United States), so my Erasmus exchange is all the more novel. While I had other exchange options (Helsinki, Lund, Copenhagen, Trier, etc), Tallinn appealed to me because of its low cost of living, dark history, relative obscurity as a nation, and unique position economically (lowest public debt in the EU, newest Eurozone member, etc).
Part of the reason that I bring up economics and history is because I’m hoping that my time in Tallinn will give me a unique topic for my 4th-year dissertation. I’m very interested in getting to study (and hopefully blog about!) Estonian culture, national identity, and economic development. I’ll be submitting my dissertation through the Social Anthropology department, and I’d ideally like to turn in an ethnography-style report (with heavy influence from Geography, of course). The courses I’ll be taking aren’t radically different from a lot of what’s offered at Edinburgh, but are understandably slanted towards Estonian society and culture. For example, I’ll be attending a course on Russian Culture in Estonia and one on Estonian Policies in the European Union. I also want to gain WebCT access to some of my required courses next year (especially considering my joint degree) so I can keep up with what’s expected of me and come into 4th year prepared.
I’m very excited to get started with my exchange. I love travelling, I love culture, and I love people, so I really think I’m going to enjoy my time in Tallinn. There will be difficulties, of course (culture shock, exchange rate issues, visas, residency permits, dodgy accommodation, new languages, the infamously cold Baltic winters, etc), but that’s all part of the fun when you get right down to it. I also enjoy writing, and travel writing is something I have a bit of experience with: I wrote a pseudo-blog for my family and friends while volunteering/travelling in Costa Rica and Nicaragua last summer. While 500 words a week is a commitment that I might get impatient with at times, I think it will help me glean the most from my experiences and serve as a sort of journal for my research and observations. Given my attraction to urban decay, shady characters, impromptu bus trips, and night-time walks spent people-watching, I can promise that my posts will get interesting. Expect character sketches, informal interviews, warped political insight, and even poetry to make its way into my blog. I may even find some time to attend my classes between it all.
See you on the other side (of the Baltic Sea)