“Some people make your laugh a little louder, your smile a little brighter and your life a little better”
I met an Estonian. Three years ago, in a “little” US-town called Bedford. Her name was Tiana and we became friends instantly. Admittedly, I had to ask her which one of the Baltic states Estonia was. And what there is to do in Estonia. And if it was very Russian, still. Yes, I did. I know. I’m sorry.
Back then I didn’t know I would ever end up in this country. To be honest, Estonia didn’t cross my mind a lot after leaving the US, but as life would have it, I found myself on a plane to Tallinn two years later. I met my second Estonian on said plane, the lovely and cheerful Grete Gaim, whom I would spot on a bus station ad a couple of days later and freak out about the fact that I knew a famous Estonian. Little did I know pretty much everybody is somehow famous in this country, or at least known to a lot of people. The pleasure of meeting Grete was immediately spoiled when, five minutes later, I met my first real Tallinn bus driver. Now, this was more like the Estonian that was described on all those blogs I had read the previous weeks. A little – or more like a lot – annoyed at the fact that it took me more than two seconds to find my money, he didn’t seem to be a very happy camper… This was the first of many times I had been yelled at by bus or tram drivers – which I found myself getting excited about in the end. There is nothing like a stranger yelling at you to make you feel like a real Estonian.
But in all seriousness now, it’s one thing to read all those blogs talking about Estonian clichés. But it’s another thing to actually understand what lies beyond the surface. And this was exactly what I was going to find out. By signing up for EBS Student Council and pouring my love and cheerfulness onto all these Estonians – and Finns – until they finally caved – after what felt like an eternity. This was the moment I got a family in Estonia. A family that was nothing like the stereotype. Ok, talking about feelings wasn’t their favorite thing and hugging was an issue as well, but God, were they awesome and full of life and creativity and everything I ever wanted in people. (They still are. Not dead or anything. They are still making this university a better and happier place by putting effort and energy into their work at Student Council. I hope you appreciate it, because let me tell you, it sure as hell is not easy sometimes!)
Joining Student Council was the best decision I could have made. While EBS gave me the small community I was missing at my home university, Student Council gave me a family in this community. Like in every family, we had our ups and downs. But no matter what, I could count on somebody being there. I have never had a support group quite like them before. They challenged me, taught me, and showed me that, if you love doing something and are doing it with a motivated bunch of people, anything can be fun. Some of my favorite days in Estonia were spent on the couch in 208, sushi on the table, as well as loads of coffee – or green tea, of course – brainstorming, planning or giggling uncontrollably because we were slowly but surely going mad after power-organizing an event we didn’t have enough time for organizing anymore. (Magically, we always pulled it off, somehow.)
What is left to say is this: Estonia has shaped me. I now stop at every single red light, no matter the traffic-intensity. And I need a lot of personal space. (Still not nearly as much as the Estonians, but still.) And I now have a bunch of people in my life that kick ass. I owe this to Tiana and her amazing friends who accepted me right away and of course to EBS and all the wonderful people who gave me a chance to prove myself, to work on myself and most importantly to be myself.
Estonia, it was a hell of a journey. I’ll be back.
Editor: Kärt Mättikas