To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries. ~Aldous Huxley
So many questions and comments I heard from relatives and friends when I announced that I would spend 3 months in Tartu. During my stay, I learned that this Aldous Huxley’s saying is true.
I had the opportunity of discovering the University of Tartu from another point of view. I’ve just finished a 3-month internship in the Protocol and International Relations Unit, in event management, and I learned more in these past months than during any other time of my life. I came to Tartu by luck.
Since I had never visited an Eastern European country, I looked for an internship there. After exchanging a few e-mails with my tutor, I was accepted at the University of Tartu, and before I knew it I was on the plane. My first impression? “How cold!”
When I first went for a walk in the city, it all seemed so different from what I was used to. It was colder than what I had ever experienced, the architecture of the city was so pretty and different, and everything covered in snow made me feel like something magical was happening. It was nothing like people told me it would be: it was not a grey town at all and I never saw that many people smile under the snow!
I walked to the University of Tartu and saw the majestic main building where I would work for 3 months. On my first day, I received a very good welcome and I was introduced to everyone. Everyone was smiling and glad to meet me, so the expression “I heard Northern people are not very welcoming” was proven wrong as well.
I stayed in Raatuse with all the international students. In a small amount of time, I made a lot of new friends and travel buddies as well. Estonia has such a good location. It is also close to the Scandinavian countries, Russia and the other Baltic States. Moreover, even if the country is small, it has a lot of treasures to reveal. To the question: “Where is Estonia? Isn’t it cold there?” I can now answer: “Yes, it is in the north and yes, it is cold. But it is one of the best places to stay if you want to travel around the Northern countries!”
My main mission during my internship was to organise a seminar. 15 people from France and Romania came to Tartu for 3 days to discuss french literature. This kind of work requires a lot of organisation, as every participant wants or needs something different. I took care of the logistics, meaning the hotels, the restaurants and the entertainment, and my colleague from the French Language and Literature Department took care of the content of the seminar.
The organisation was difficult sometimes because the budget was limited, which led me to do a lot of research to find the best quality/prices in Tartu. But it was worth it: We had a wounderful 3 days with the group!
My internship? It confirmed my first impressions and thoughts. I met a lot of people, professionals and colleagues and none of them were cold or unwelcoming. It made me discover the small French community living in Tartu, which was very cheerful and helpful with all of the Estonians wanting to learn French. It allowed me to discover a new side of the sector I want to work in and motivated me in my choice. Estonians are very open-minded and interested in foreigners: They taught me about their culture as much (and even more) than I taught them about my own.
Frankly, the saying: “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries” is true. If you want to know a country, you have to discover it by yourself and not only by rumours. So, travel and get those experiences yourself! What a smart man, Aldous Huxley…