Name: Jordan Gustke
Hometown: Redgranite, WI
Year in school: Sophomore (Second year)
Major: Hotel Restaurant Tourism Management with an International Studies Specialization
Study Abroad Location: Tartu, Estonia
Hello everyone, and “Tere” from Estonia! My name is Jordan, and I’m currently studying abroad at the University of Tartu here in Estonia. With this being my first time traveling outside of the United States, it’s already been quite an exciting time considering simply getting here proved to be a hassle all its own. My original flights got messed up because of a 4-hour ground ban in Chicago that made me miss my connecting flights, and my suitcase ended up flying that night without me. The following day I got on a train from Minneapolis to Chicago where there ended up being a pretty substantial snowstorm. Lucky for me my flight wasn’t one of the massive amount that got cancelled. I first flew to Poland where I had a slight scare with trying to get through the security checkpoint with only a 50-minute layover, and then to Estonia’s capital city, Tallinn. I had a fairly long wait at the airport before my two-and-a-half-hour bus ride down to Tartu, and I ended up meeting some fellow exchange students in the airport who were also waiting for the bus; one of which is from North Carolina and is actually in one of my classes.
One of the really nice things about choosing to study in Estonia is that there isn’t a huge language barrier… well academic-wise anyway. All of my classes are taught in English, but the university also teaches courses on the basis of other languages as well. English is the third most spoken language here, behind Estonian and Russian, so it is not hard to find someone who knows at least a little bit of the language. Going to market, however, can prove to be quite a challenge sometimes. Food labels are mostly in Estonian, so you learn to pay close attention to what’s depicted on the package pretty quickly since some products, like sweet and sour sauce and pasta sauce, can come in near-identical packaging. I am currently taking a class on Estonian language, and I have to admit that it’s kind of exciting to already put bits and pieces into work this early in the semester.
Like America, Estonia is a very proud and patriotic country, but it is also newly independent. This year Estonia celebrated 100 years of independence, and I was lucky enough to be able to be here to experience such an exciting time. The colors of the Estonian flag were put up all around the country, and there were special events planned to help celebrate the occasion. I am thankful to have been here during this time, and I feel like it helped me, as an international student, get even more associated with the country. Although on the streets people may keep to themselves, the Estonian students that I have met have all been very welcoming, and they are appreciative when you show interest in their culture or attempt to learn their language; especially since the Estonian language is regarded as the hardest language to learn for non-native speakers (which I can attest to as well).
I have completed nearly one fifth of my semester here in Tartu, and I am extremely excited to see what kind of adventures the remaining four will bring me as well.
Until next time, Stout!
Found this lovely view of Tartu from the observation tower hill.
A photo of me in front of the Town Hall building that had been decorated for Independence Day.
The town center is such a beautiful place at night! (Fun fact: these lights were put up for Christmas, but everybody loved them so much that it was decided to just keep them up! A wonderful decision if you ask me; I never get tired of walking through here after dark.)