Friday, May 25, 2018

Isaac in Estonia!

Tervitused Eestist - Greetings from Estonia!

     I'm Isaac Hawkins, a third year International and Global Studies student studying abroad in the beautiful city of Tartu, Estonia. I arrived in Tartu nearly four months ago, and what a ride it has been. The morning of February 6th, my stomach was in a knot. I had never been on a plane. Heck, I'd never been to an airport. My first flight was going to take me to Europe, and look, y'all, I was nervous. Still, I thought I knew what to expect when I got off the plane. I'd done so much research, and I thought I had it all figured out. I was wrong. 

                                                       WARNING: This might get a little sappy. 

      Twenty-five hours of travel later, I rolled up in an icy little town where the sun never seemed to come out. Winter was a hard adjustment; it snowed every day for a month and a half. The food was nothing special, and the locals hardly ever spoke. Courses were structured differently, and I could never tell if I was doing too much or not enough. I tried to embrace the atmosphere and make the most out of winter, I even went on a spectacular trip to Finnish Lapland, well beyond the edge of the Arctic Circle- but even though I was making more friends than I could count, I was fighting an uphill battle with homesicknessIt was all just so different from where I grew up on the coast of North Carolina, and different from UNCG. I was questioning my choice to leave home. Would I not have the life changing experience that I'd been yearning for for so long?  

     Then something magical happened. The sun came out, and the country began to thaw. By April, Tartu was alive, and the quiet winter streets became bustling business fronts teeming with bright and beautiful faces of celebration. Ever since, it has been a non-stop party. Everything is in full bloom. With more fresh ingredients available to restaurants and produce markets, even the food transformed. The sun sets at 10 and rises at 4:30. I've never been anywhere with a stronger sense of place. Sure, I still miss grits and my Granny, but I'm so glad I never gave up on my new home. I truly am having the time of my life. In other words, Estonia is awesome. I'd tell you about all of my adventures (and misadventures), but I wouldn't be able to convey just how incredible they have been. I guess you'll just have to come experience Estonia for yourself some time. 

     Just a word of advice for my fellow Spartans, think of difference as an opportunity, not a hindrance. If you stay stuck in your ways, or if you think you know everything, you won't grow. Embrace a different culture, try new things, eat new food, go new places. Historically, geographically, spiritually, Estonia is all about transformation and identity. And if there's one thing it has taught me, it's that you never know where or how you might find a new piece of the life's puzzle.

Nagemist - see you later!

Isaac Hawkins
University of Tartu
Tartu, Estonia