Jessica is the winner of the UT Student Journalist Contest on Facebook, and this is her winning contest entry. She comes from the United States (Nebraska and Minnesota) and studies international relations and history. Keep an eye on our Facebook Notes to follow Jessica’s stories.
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”—Miriam Beard
While there are some things that simply cannot be said in words, this quote most closely captures my experience studying and traveling in Estonia. International travel provokes an enduring and transformative change. It foments personal growth only rarely regrettable and never forgotten. An experience in Tartu, the city of good thoughts, will forever leave its mark on those who have been lucky enough to call it home, even if only for a short while. I am sure after I leave this city, and for many years to come, I will still smell the wood burning in the saunas, wafting smoke from little chimneys speckled across the Tartu skyline. I will still hear the beautiful and melodic sing-song of Estonians speaking, perhaps only of trivial, day-to-day niceties, but sounding as if describing something of profound beauty. I will still be able to see the curious funnel of blackbirds fanning across the sky at dusk like demonic ocean waves, and feel the flutter of butterflies in my stomach as these tall, blonde, Estonian creatures stroll past me on their way to class. I will still hear the cheerful tributes of “Tere!” and “Terviseks!” elbowing their way through clinging pints of Ale Coq all the way down Rüüni street. These sights, sounds, and feelings are hallmarks of my experience in Tartu and will be forever seared in my memory.
These bits and pieces . . . these feelings and memories . . . along with thousands upon thousands of other moments, are forever a part of me. As are the experiences of my childhood and as will be the experiences that await me, however unimaginable they might be. As I write this, a reflection on Tartu, the city of good thoughts, I realize how my path of change, my “idea of living,” is profoundly my own. And I am reminded of why I travel—to learn, to grow, to stretch my limits and challenge my take on the world. But more than that, I am in recognition of what we all have in common—we carry the beauty of the world, and now the beauty of Tartu, within us, wherever we may go next. Each of us has been given the gift of a willingness to openly accept the deep and profound change hidden in the nooks and crannies of our world—in the melody of a language, in the currents of the Emajõgi, or in the curious funnel of blackbirds—and for such a gift I am happy. ☻