Marika Seigel is a visiting associate professor in the UT Department of English Philology where she teaches courses in rhetoric. She is the author of “The Rhetoric of Pregnancy” and “Expecting: A Brief History of Pregnancy Advice,” both with the University of Chicago Press. See Marika’s personal blog.
By far, the question I am asked most frequently as a visiting professor at UT is, “how do you like teaching Estonian students?” or maybe, “How are Estonian students different from their American peers?”
My standard answers include, “I like teaching them quite a bit,” or “they’re not that different. Estonians are a bit quieter, maybe.”
The truth is a little bit more complicated, as it often tends to be. First of all, when I am talking about “American” students, I’m talking about students in a very particular university in a very particular part of a very large country. My home institution, Michigan Technological University, is a small school (about 7000 students) in a very remote area of northern Michigan (the state that is surrounded by the Great Lakes). Houghton, Michigan, is wild and remote, not what most people typically think of when you think of the U.S. It makes Tartu seem urban by comparison.
My students there, for the most part, are destined for careers in engineering and other technical fields, and are thus rather pragmatically career minded; they frequently want to know how learning rhetoric or writing or philosophy or literature will help them get a better job. Continue reading