An intern’s Estonia

I’m always very surprised to hear how Estonia, such a small country, has revolutionized so many people’s lives! And it’s happened to me too: life has taken a direction that I never planned, but perhaps always wished… But it all started with the Erasmus+ Traineeship!

I am looking for a place in Europe that is as close as possible to Russia, reachable with the Erasmus, having studied Russian at university and wanting to practice. My university offers one internship in Estonia: a small job at the University of Tartu (the most prestigious in the country). Based on this choice, I also base my graduation thesis on the University of Tartu and its excellent department of semantics: I start to study Zara Minc. Then, on 14th August 2016, as I prepare to celebrate Ferragosto, I receive an e-mail: they cannot accept my internship application, despite the agreement with my university. After the first few days of panic, I decide that this is the opportunity I needed. In fact, now I can choose the internship that I’ve always dreamed of. Having studied translation for special purposes, I decide to write to the best translation agencies that I can find. My research focuses on Greece (my big love!) and Estonia. After a couple months of research, and heavy silences coming from the mailbox, I get a reply from the translation agency Interlex: they accepted me! While I start writing my thesis, I also bustle about preparing all the necessary documents to leave with the Erasmus+ Traineeship. For me, New Year’s Eve 2016 was a double end and a double start: I knew that this new adventure abroad would have changed me forever but I could have never imagined how much, and I could have never thought that would change even the people closest to me. On 2nd January, I take a flight to Tallinn. Arriving there from Napoli, by the way, is not the easiest thing in the world…

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My favorite colleague!

While at home the holidays would last until 7th January, on 4th I am already working, and for the first time I experience the office life, the topic everyone talks about (after sex)! Getting up every day at the same time, staying 8 hours at the office, sitting at a desk, warming up the lunch in the office microwave: for the first two months all this has been an exciting news! In the third month, my enthusiasm has already waned: I realize this lifestyle does not belong to me in any way! In addition, I am also an Erasmus student, so I have joined (almost) all the events organized for the Erasmus people in Estonia by ESN. Yet, the difference with the Erasmus students attending the university is immediately spotted: the time schedule is different, the days off are different, but also the meeting points and topics to talk about. 

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Jaanipaev, to celebrate the absence of night (and sleep!)

After a few months I naturally find myself in the company of other interns or workers. In this aspect, I feel privileged: I am able to live both the “student” side (also because of my thesis researches) and the “working” side of my Erasmus. The key point of the Erasmus Traineeship is the experience of a professional environment, which, being a student, no school or university has never been able to give me: a place where you have meetings to measure productivity at, where a boss (or more than one) expects certain results from you, where at the end of the day you really need a beer with your colleagues for the headache all the things you have to do give you!

Estonia is a small wonderful country. Just out of one of the most terrible dictatorships in history, it has found itself at a crossroads: surrender to historical pessimism or roll up its sleeves? Estonians, toughened up by centuries of bitter struggle against the cold, quickly erased the Soviet memories and hooked with optimism the news of the ’90s: computers and internet. Now the whole society is based on digitization and the development of cutting-edge technologies, and it is making headway. For example, it is the European country with the highest number of start-ups per capita, and the only one in the world where you can vote online. Go and check how little it takes for you to start your own business, in just 15 minutes! To explain the Estonians, I will tell about the relationship with my tutor at the translation agency. An adorable woman, sweet mother of two beautiful girls, she taught me everything she could with maternal warmth and infinite grace. 12654691_10156439326075693_7610753697918418131_nOne day, in the weekend, I met her on the street and, caught up by the excitement, I hugged her and kissed her, the Italian way! Her reaction clearly told me: why are you touching me? Too much human contact! But Estonians are not cold, they are the closest friends you can find. After they have recognized a friend in you, they will do anything to help, and will find a way to tell you that they love you. Two weeks ago I went back to that translation agency to greet everyone, but my tutor in particular. I was careful not to touch her “too much”, but my tutor did not resist to a very formal hug, and the fact he could barely hold her smile told me that she was happy to see me again after so many months.

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Curious to live in a “European” flat 🙂

But it was the last month of Erasmus+ that changed my life. Halfway through this experience, I met in a Scottish pub who eventually became my colleague and one of my best friends, who brought me into the world of DreamApply. In March, every day was more or less like this: work until 16:00 at the translation agency, then run to the other office for a trial period, until about 19.30. And please do not forget the thesis. I started to have less time for myself, for my friends, especially those who were home. These have been tough and tiring moments, also because what I started with DreamApply is something that I did not know until that moment. It took so much effort, so much thinking, so much deciding, and also many opinions, from anyone! But that’s another story, which I’ll be glad to tell in a future post, about my current job. What I can say, once again, is that Erasmus has completely changed my life. It gave me some of my best friends ever, friends that I was almost never able to find at home, a job that I love to face every day with a hard-ass attitude, independence, but most of all the perspective of a wider world, beyond the street signs of your city or country. Being friends with everyone, and every time finding something to love in others that we do not have. If one day I have enough decision-making power, I will make Erasmus mandatory for all students!

But my love story with the Erasmus started earlier, in 2014, when I left for Bulgaria. I hope to have some time soon to write more about the Erasmus, to convince all the undecided kids to leave and enjoy the Europe of the openings, because there is nobody who goes back home without suffering from post-Erasmus depression. And most of all, no one goes back home without the feeling of having lived the most exciting experience of their lives!

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My favorite picture 🙂

Ps: A nice memory I have from the time spent at the translation agency is this article that I wrote to help the agency content marketing. If you are considering to become a translator, these are my recommendations.

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