Tag Archives: ERASMUS

Day #118 after arrival – Comparing Estonia and Germany (part 2)

After my 1st comparison between Germany and Estonia only four days after having arrived to Tartu, I now have had some more time. This time these differences are much more sophisticated, as I have been watching, witnessing and interacting within the society for quite a while now…

1) The University

Coming from a University of Applied Science it has been a real challenge to me. being a number in a rather big classroom with no personal interaction from the lecturer refers to a concept which I appreciated to have gotten to know, but I still prefer the idea of communication within classes. This is not much a difference between two countries, I know. But I was aiming at showing the differences. Despite being a highly accredited university within the region, Ülikool Tartu lacks efficiency and clear focus. Maybe that may be different for my perspective of being an ERASMUS student, but I am shocked regarding the lack of clarity among certain factors.  Teachers missing without notifications, teachers answering private calls during class, no predefined schedule, no ideas regarding the assessment. I have spent hours discrediting the Hanze for its unclear structures and its complicated means of communication, but now I gained awareness that maybe this is no Dutch or an Estonian issue, but one that spreads across higher education institutions. The image below shows a procession of Estonian societies during a torch walk from the Vanemuine Theatre towards the University’s main building.

2) Snow

I have seen snow and cold weather in my life. Yet I have barely even been exposed to -19°C and heavy wind at 9pm at night. It is slippery, my beard keeps freezing, snowball fights with Americans seem like modern warfare and sledding down one of the highest hills within the country –  all that is what, all that is what makes a winter in Tartu being much more interesting than a winter in Germany or the Netherlands.  Of course, I really miss the Christmas markets in Oldenburg or watching the arrival of Sinter Klaas in Groningen, or the winter festival nearby the waterside in Groningen, but for 1 winter, these new impressions are highly valuable to me!

3) Public Speaking

I admit, German and Dutch are not among the most beautiful languages in the world, no doubts about that. But let it be due to linguistic history, roots of people or general an ability to speak to a crowd of people, but the language of Estonian is not mad for public speaking. The language is not as “lively” as Spanish or Italian, but also – rather stiff – languages like Russian or Norwegian sound more cheerful and thus more entertaining than Estonian. I witnessed a speech by the dean of the university the other day and even though I give some room for interpretation (in addition to zero understanding of the language itself), it was very difficult to follow, since I could not reckon a rhythm in the speech. One needs to know that the language per se is not well elaborated, in terms of number of words. Rather, the end of main words is being changed according to the meaning of the word or its usage. So sentences sound long while in fact very little words have been used and only changes have been made to the endings. Therefore, the rhythm is not a present as I am used to be hearing and thus, it does not sound sweet!

4) Christmas markets

a. They do have them here in Estonia (though “only” in Tallinn and Tartu), and they are clearly related to their German heritage (I will not go too much into detail here regarding the history, but my people have been the ruling elite in the region for several centuries). A big tree, highly illuminated (and thus disobeying the Kyoto protocol) with cards to Santa, written by kids stands in the middle of the Raekoja plats, leaving only limited space for the boat. The boat? Yeah, the boat! For a second successive year, a big wooden ship has been transported to Tartu, offering people to enter it, hold seminars and workshops on it, chop wood for the open fire, drinking hot spiced wine (Höögvein in Estonian) or Solyanka (Russian-style meat soup). The fountain, which has been covered in previous blogs is frozen (so is the river!), but with temperatures around -19°C at night that is no surprise. Now before I post this blog, I will publish a link about the boat in Tartu. I don’t want to mention too much right now, but you got to give it a glance, you might find someone you know…!

http://www.reporter.ee/2010/11/26/hansalodi-jommu-tommati-joulukuuks-kuivale-maale/

118 days in Tartu, times have passed so fast; it seems just as yesterday that I left the base. Only some weeks are left, but I am sure I will make the most out of it and the end of my ERASMUS will witness a sort of payback….So stay tuned!


2 months in Estonia – Evaluation of a situation

Today, 2 months ago, I have grabbed my suitcase, I have grabbed my bag. I have said “Goodbye” to those I am going to miss and then: I was sitting in the airplane, taking off for a 5-months adventure to Tartu, Estonia!

Now, exactly 2 months later, I thought it might be time for an evaluation, in addition to posting a new bunch of pictures! The time being here kind of flies. It is hard to imagine that 2 months have passed already. My weeks at the Ülikool pass by so quickly that I sometimes feel I have missed a week or two. Before I noticed it is weekend again, and then Monday, and so on…

What have I seen from this country so far? I have been in Tallinn for two days, only walking around the Old Town and watched football in the national stadium. I have taken a train to Tartu (and I am still receiving “thumps up” for my Stalin-reference on the waggon-quality. I have spent a day sightseeing in the South, including the oldest tree, the highest mountain, the deepest lake and an interesting walk in the sump.

I have watched football in Tartu, I have bought Tofu in a store, I became a regular at the open food market (which offers the lowest prices for fresh vegetables and fruits in the city).

I have experienced a student city in which students form, change and rearrange the city and especially its nightlife with tremendous pace. All sorts of different music offer a wide variety, next to bars and pubs and clubs… The clubs are crap, like clubs normally are, but the pubs are worth visiting. The price level in Estonia in general is very “consumer-friendly”, though with the € coming soon, a tiny but constant rise in prices is notable (Tallinn has become almost as expensive as some German cities).

It has not quite been halftime for my in Estonia, but since I feel the time rushing through, I need to plan my time more wisely. What definitely is my list is a 4-day trip to Moscow, starting in less than 2 weeks. My Russian is still “under construction”, but I reckon I could use some catchy phrases to get along 😉 In addition, I will have a day trip to Viljandi sometime in October, for sightseeing the city and watching a football match over there!

My resume after 2 months: I like it! Tartu is a great city, Estonia is a great country and the Baltic Area is a good place to spend a semester abroad!