So my Erasmus Language Course has now ended, and I’ve moved into my permanent residence for the year: the Tallinn University Dormitory in the city center. The last week of my course was a bit more relaxed, with fewer trips and activities, but still managed to go out with a bang on the last day. We performed a mock Eurovision song contest (all in Estonian, of course) for a small group of lucky workers at the Academy. While all agreed that our Estonian needed some work, we still managed to entertain our audience. The specific performance I did (with fellow EILC student Yasin) was a cover of the song “Suitsu ei tee”, which roughly translates to English as “I don’t smoke”. While the humor might be partly lost to those who don’t speak Estonian, I still highly recommend a YouTube search for it.
Overall, I’m extremely happy that I decided to take the summer EILC at the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the people, the cultural events, and the experience in general. While I doubt I will ever speak Estonian to any advanced degree, the courses were still useful and I feel like I already have a base of friends, places, and knowledge about Tallinn and Estonia. For anyone considering taking an EILC course, I cannot recommend it enough!
My dorm here at Tallinn University is surprisingly liveable. I was bracing myself for the worst, especially once I saw the outside, which is a terrifying showcase of 1960s Soviet brutalist concrete architecture. The interior, however, has been recently remodelled. The rooms, while not spacious or offering any sense of privacy, are clean, functional, and relatively comfortable. The same goes for the bathrooms, although my toilet is built into a claustrophobically small box of a room. I share the bathroom with four people (including my roommate, yet another friendly German) and the kitchen with eight people. My orientation starts this Wednesday, so it’s been a rush to get moved in, unpacked, and prepare all of my documentation before then. Frustratingly, I’ve also managed to catch a cold, but it’s nothing a cocktail of painkillers and decongestants can’t make bearable.
Contrary to the common depiction of Estonians as cold and unfriendly, most of the Estonians I’ve met have been quite warm in communication. It’s true that the culture is more reserved, but I’ve yet to have anyone be outright rude to me. There is, though, definitely less of a ‘social front’ than you would find in the US or the UK. By that, I mean that many ‘polite’ social gestures (apologizing when you bump into someone, small talk with a cashier, smiling to others on the street) aren’t expected or even all that common. This fact can be jarring at first, but it also means that there is less pressure to always put on an aura of politeness. However, the few Estonians I have gotten to know have all been sincere, patient, and kind. The culture shock so far hasn’t been that powerful, but things will certainly get more interesting once I start my university courses.
P.S. I now have a new, shiny Estonian bank account, which was surprisingly easy and painless to get opened. It is, however, quite hungry and looking forward to a feast of Erasmus grant money.
P.P.S. Okay, the laundry room in this dorm is ridiculous. I’ve been waiting to use it for over an hour. There are three washing machines and three dryers for nearly a hundred people. Who designed this!?