It’s hard to believe that I’m at the end of my first month… It feels like no time has passed at all and I’m still settling into classes and remembering to buy groceries, yet also like I’ve been living in Tallinn for ages and the easy friendship with other exchange students has been the work of months, not weeks.

In the past week it has gotten cold — I mean it feels like dead winter for me, plus a lot more rain than I’m used to. I finally bought a warmer coat and boots but it seems evident that my small supply of wool socks and lack of an even warmer jacket needs to be remedied before real winter starts… It’s barely the beginning of fall!

Although I have a few exciting trips planned, they haven’t quite arrived so I thought I’d take this post to talk a bit about the University here and my classes. Tallinn University of Technology or TalTech as it was recently re-nicknamed (I think it’s adorable), has a lot of science and IT majors while International Relations and Economics are sort of bundled under Business Administration. Despite some credit discrepancies, there were quite a few classes for me (International Studies major) to choose from. As an exchange student I’m allowed to take Master’s classes as well as Bachelors, which along with meeting other students that are much further along in their studies, has definitely helped open my perspective to further opportunities and academic areas I am interested in. As I’ve mentioned before, studying in classes that are majority Erasmus and other exchange students has been really amazing considering my degree focuses on international cooperation on an individual, as well as economic and political level. I’m also taking two language classes- french and estonian, which are as different as the languages themselves. I normally wouldn’t choose Estonia as a place to study french, but as my current plan is to try and study in France next semester, any practice is definitely a priority. Estonian Language and Culture, on the other hand, is one of the most popular classes for exchange students, and is an experience in itself. I can’t quite convey how different the Estonian Language is to any romance or even germanic language, however a few things I have learned in my Estonian class are:

Vowels – there are 9 and they are a, ӓ, e, i, o, õ, ö, u, and ü. One thing that Estonians are very proud of is their singing tradition (look up the singing revolution if you’re curious), and they like to say that the Estonian language or eesti keel sounds like singing as well. My teacher even said many argue that they have the most beautiful language over Italian! Not only are all of these nine vowels meant to be very different (I still get confused between the three o’s), a ridiculous amount of words have double vowels which change them even more. A lot of the first few weeks were spent repeating after the professor things like “kool kooli kooli” (the last two are spelled the same but pronounced different meaning on the school and to school), and “supp, supi, suppi, just and juust, or ma and maa”.

Here’s a funny phrase to illustrate my issue with vowels:

Kuuuurijate töööö jӓӓӓӓrel – this means something like a moon researcher works at night on the edge of ice. Obviously not too useful a phrase, but it EXISTS

Compound words – if you think German is queen of compound words, you haven’t met Estonian. Some of them are so ridiculously long an Estonian has to sound it out and break it down in order to tell you what it means. You might ask why they choose to squish all the words together then? I’m still not sure there’s an answer for that, although I think they are mostly used in written language to make it more elegant but still…To show you what I mean…

Kuulilennuteetunneliluuk – apparently is a physics term about a bullet flying through a tunnel. It can be broken into 5 separate words

Uusaastaöövastuvõtuhommikuidüll – Is also at least 5 words put together to mean a perfect morning after a New Year’s Eve reception

Anyway, as a languages major the chance to delve into a language with such different pronunciation, spelling and structure in a class taught differently than any other language class I’ve been in has been really cool. This post is already too long so I’ll leave Estonian sauna culture for the next one…

Head aega! Nägemiseni! Kõike head! Head päeva!