As I have stated earlier, it’s not always easy to be surrounded by party minded foreign students. Especially if you’re not much of a night time socializer yourself. It happened to me many times before in Riga, Tartu and Kaunas that others don’t really understood the lack of desire to go out, party, and get wasted. I must however say that in Kaunas it felt already a lot better than it had been before. There I met people who respected my love for adventurous weekend walks and didn’t proclaim me as the most boring person in the world when not setting off to a club at 23.00 during any random day of the week. Here in Tallinn it feels even better.
Even though Tallinn University welcomed over 500 international students for this semester I don’t really feel like being part of the foreign student gang. I have two precious friends here, Kalev and Arthur. Kalev is Estonia’s only commercial balloon pilot. We met during a fantastic balloon event in Riga earlier this year and ever since we share many stories and laughs. He still enjoys every flight to the fullest. His passion is respectable. I often proclaim Anu my ‘Finnish mom’. I spent two wonderful summers with her during my summer school programme in Mikkeli, Finland. Kalev is kind of like my ‘Estonian dad’. With him I can talk about balloons for hours and besides that he always takes me to the coolest places for the most fun action. I for example joined him during two balloon flights here in Estonia already, he arranged my Antonov An-2 flight and we furthermore explored the Northern coastline of Estonia by motorbike. Some hovercraft craziness is already scheduled.
Arthur is a first year full time Bachelor student from Russia. He is incredibly bright and knows all ins and outs of pretty much any political system anywhere in the world. His curiosity is enormous, however, he’s not into drinking and clubbing. I’m very glad we met each other during the opening of the academic year. Ever since we take walks, the longest one was all the way to Viimsi. He is for sure the only Russian I know having a complete Britsh accent. I had to let go all of my stereotypes about Russians, a good thing. Comparing cultures together with Arthur always leads to interesting stories. I’m really looking forward to visit him once in his home town Moscow.
Even though I don’t have many close friends here (yet), I’m extremely thankful for the precious friendships I did manage to establish. It’s such a pleasure to hang out with people having the same interests. It makes my time in Tallinn so relaxed and yet so diverse. For a long time I thought something was wrong with me because of this disinterest in partying. Now I feel so completely fine with it. In Tallinn I can be who I want to be without any pressure at all of foreign student norms. Of course I don’t want to make all international students seem like party addicts without any interest in their host culture. On the contrary. But still, I guess ‘Erasmus exchange’ often equals a fair amount of alcohol and night life. Let it be clear once again that this doesn’t have to be bad, at all. It’s actually a fantastic way to get to know others and the facets of their culture. Yet, this method is just not working for me. I get my satisfaction and culture knowledge through observations, walks and through the not so ordinary interest in ballooning. As a small child when my dad infected me with this (ok, I actually don’t like this expression so much) balloon virus I could have never imagined that this particular interest would connect me with so many lovely people all over the world, seeing this very same world from such a different but fascinating angle. If my dad wouldn’t have chased his ballooning adventures back in the middle 90s my life would have looked so different right now.
All in all, to conclude, it’s such a pleasure to be in Tallinn. I’ve not seen any person judging my clothing style with a slight degree of disrespect out of the corner of one’s eye. I’ve not heard anybody stating it’s boring not to go out. I’m just living a little egoistic life here all the way up in the North, just doing what I want, when I want it. It sounds so wrong but feels so right. And don’t worry, I’ve been going to my classes ever since the semester started. That duty is one impossible to get out of my system. You know what… I think Tallinn is the perfect combination of what I’ve often been searching of. Its Nordic vibe is heavenly attractive. The enormous desire to resemble Scandinavia is so big it often really makes me feel like being in the hands of a protective Nordic good-life society. Yet, the inner adventurer can still be pleased with a little hint of Soviet when properly hunting for it. This balance of trustworthiness with a slight degree of tension is all I could wish for at the moment. The autumn semester of 2013, a crown on my plastic Baltic throne, decorated with shiny and priceless memories instead of kitschy diamonds.