Tere Tallinnast! Hello from Tallinn!
Elena Schulz-Ruhtenberg is here to kick off our “Letters from...” series with her first dispatch from the Estonian capital.
Sep 26, 2019
When I was packing for my semester abroad to the Estonian capital, I made sure to fill my suitcases with thick wool sweaters. But when I got here at the end of August, there was no sign of winter temperatures. Instead, my new roommates and I – one is from Belgium and the other from France – headed for the sea right outside our front door to enjoy the 25° C (77° F) weather. The sound of seagulls and the salt air still feel like being on vacation. The weather wasn’t the only warm welcome we received: The university also greeted us with Estonian folk dances, singing, and cake.
I had a feeling that Tallinn is a popular city among students, but it wasn’t until I got here and met students from Pakistan, Thailand, Nigeria, South Korea, and the Philippines that I realized just how popular it really is. The big attraction here is studying subjects related to digital technology. Estonia is known for being a leader in the field. But the Baltic Film, Media, Arts, and Communication School also attracts a lot of students. They offer courses that would be hard to find in Germany: creative thinking, music production in the virtual studio, and digital piano composition.
The Estonians I have met so far proudly see their country as the testing grounds for new digital applications. In a country with 1.3 million inhabitants, they have put into everyday practice things that are still way off in the distance in Germany. For example, I have to apply for an Estonian ID card, which also serves as my public transportation pass and library card.
Estonians also use the card for digital signatures and to access a personal e-mail account set up so that they can take care of official bureaucratic and administrative business online. It’s so incredibly practical! No long lines at government offices, you can do your taxes in five minutes on your computer, doctor’s prescriptions saved to your card. I can’t wait to see what other digital innovations the country has in store...