In a nutshell, I have been living and interning in Tallinn, Estonia. Currently with EducationUSA in conjunction with Tallinn University of Technology as an administrative intern. It is currently my 8th week here in the Eastern European country and I can say that some things are great and others are so so.

During the past few weeks I have met so many people and attended so many events with my internship! My daily life of my internship is as follows:

7am-ish: head to the gym for volleyball or yoga

10am-ish: Head to the internship

10ish-12ish: Check emails, projects, meetings, powerpoints

12ish-1ish: lunch meetings with various people

1ish-5ish- More meetings, events, traveling, working on more presentations

I usually do this same routine Monday-Friday and it has been great but dang I am tired. I didn’t realize that sitting in an office for 30+ hours waiting for students to come by could be so tiring. The email part is probably the thing I like the least. On a typical day and shift, I go through about 30 emails. I’m sure that if I were to get a position in a university setting, I would have even more! It is definitely a learning experience.

The best part of the internship would probably be being able to travel to various schools and present about the cultural side of the United States. Last week I went to Tallinn High school # 21! Tallinn High school is regarded as one of the best grade schools in Tallinn where you would have to pass an English exam to get in. Imagine being 6 years old and having to pass a test in a foreign language to be able to attend this school. Crazy right? The students during the presentation were 5th and 6th graders and woah they had so much energy! As I was presenting about U.S. culture I did mini quizzes to keep them interested about the materials. The quizzes were fairly easy, asking them about the population, the location and the symbol of the Statue of Liberty. I also talked a fair amount about the unique diversity we have in the United States, which have positive impacts and negative impacts on history and culture. This week I will present on undergraduate studies, the college life, the opportunities, and how to apply for different institutions.

 

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I had also gotten the chance to visit Narva, a border city in Estonia. You could immediately see the difference between Tallinn and Narva. Narva is heavily influenced by the Russian culture. It seems like the soviet times have never left this city. Crumbling buildings, grey everything, and unkept sidewalks was the norm here. People there mostly spoke Russian and there was only one school that taught in the Estonian Language.

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Things that I didn’t realize about this internship: I didn’t realize how much I had to research the details of US culture and the system of US higher education to make sure I knew enough to not be ignorant. I have spent countless hours reading, comprehending, and writing. I also didn’t realize that being on the road could be so tiring. One of the days, I went from school to school giving a total of 3 presentations lasting about 2 hours each. Going from student to administrator is a very big change where the details matter and completing tasks are key to a successful day.

About my experience in Tallinn, I enjoy it very much here! Groceries are generally cheaper here than in the US and compared to Seattle, meals in restaurants are also cheaper. As a student with a student ID card, I get many discounts on transportation, tickets, food too! That’s one of the benefits that I really enjoy here. I also celebrated my birthday here! My friends cooked me dinner, bought some wine, and got me cake to celebrate. It was fantastic and couldn’t have asked for more than being with people who took the time out of their day to come celebrate.

Although there are many upsides to interning abroad here in Estonia, there are also some down sides. Earlier last week I got really sad. I started to miss the culture, the people, and of course my dog back at home. The struggles of being abroad where everything is different is something people usually go through when being away from their home for an extended period. The Estonian people here are really sweet when you talk to them but without any interaction, it seems like they are just dolls. It is quiet and mellow in Estonia where people usually keep to themselves. The food is somewhat bland consisting of potatoes, some kind of meat, and lots and lots of dill. They love pickled things here too! Pickled cabbage, pickled veggies, pickled pickles. I love pickles, yum! With the fluctuation of cultural shift, I am accepting that this is pretty normal and am deciding that it will pass soon. Also at the moment, it is very cold. 4 degrees celsius which is about 40 degrees fahrenheit. My boss said it can get -30 C here in December!

On a side note: I went to stockholm the other day and it was FANTASTIC! Although Tallinn is very beautiful, Stockholm was on another level. This can probably contribute to them being away from occupational rule from other countries.

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As always, I am learning, discovering, and trying to become a better me everyday and I am happy to have all of these experiences all the same time!

I believe next week, I will take some time to explore the seaside or go to Latvia or something.

Thanks for reading and check out some photos of my adventures here.

Nägamist,

Dong

 

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