Andres Tennus

Carl Frederick Liles: "Our first taste of leib, playing Werewolves, and a healthy dose of sauna"


So, as a member of the graduating international relations cohort, I have the pleasure of speaking on the behalf of the graduate students in attendance. I thought that for this speech it would be fitting that, as best I can, I speak to our collective experience over the past two years.

Taking inspiration from Oskar Luts, I would like us to explore the chapters of our journey as seasons. Or more precisely, semesters named after seasons.

Our first semester in the Fall of 2022 was for us, a period of exploration and novelty. At Skytte, we delved into a world of new peers, educators, theories, concepts, and topics. In this atmosphere of unfamiliarity, the notable international relations scholar Alexander Wendt may be forgiven for describing us as ontologically insecure. However, our eagerness and excitement led to a blossoming of intellectual curiosity, trepid academic successes, and new friendships.

Outside of the institute, we began to explore and relish life in the coziness of Tartu and Southern Estonia. Hiking over hills and bogs, our first taste of leib, playing Werewolves, and a healthy dose of sauna - hailed the embarkment of our lives in Estonia for the next two years. With fewer and fewer daylight hours and colder temperatures, these comforts helped brace us for the coming winter.

Spring 2023 proved to be challenging. After our first taste of coursework in the Fall, we endured a densely packed schedule of core and elective classes, which pushed our intellectual boundaries.

Nonetheless, the seeds of solidarity planted by our increasingly heartfelt social bonds/ bore fruit this semester, as we leaned upon one another for advice and support during the more stressful points of the Spring. These figurative seeds were just as welcomed as the literal ones, as after March, many of us were relieved to see flowers, green grass, and the sun. With these new births, we emerged tested, more confident, and ready to ponder what to propose for our thesis in the Fall.

Summer 2023 served as the bridge to our second year of studies. The respite from our studies gave us time to appreciate what we had gained in our first year at Skytte, which not only included knowledge and friendships, but also the acquaintance and guidance of our instructors. As an institute, Skytte stands out from many of its peers for the quality and accessibility of its educators and administrators, for which, we, as students of the institute, are thankful for their efforts in helping realize the excellence of Skytte’s teaching and research.

Fall 2023 ushered in an exciting return for many of us to familiar faces in Tartu, as we looked to wrap up our remaining coursework. But we met not only familiar faces, but also a number of other joys, which we had become accustomed to during the prior Fall. The brisk smell of juniper, the rich bounty of the Dorpat lunch buffet, the sun setting over the Emajoogi, and the embrace of the gentle hills of Karikuu during Skytte’s autumn school.

For a number of us, this semester was an exciting chance to study abroad as a part of the ERASMUS program, broadening our knowledge and experience beyond Estonia. However, for those who didn’t go on ERASMUS, Skytte furnished us with many opportunities throughout our degree to travel and learn. With our instructors, my peers and I participated in lectures, conferences, and meetings in places far and wide, such as Prague, Bucharest, Prishtina, Ljubljana and even, Tallinn.

Spring 2024 provided us with our final obstacle: thesis. From the outset, we faced a more daunting array of tasks compared to any prior semester. The depth and complexity of producing a meaningful contribution to academic literature was a journey unto itself. However, with each other’s help, as well as the aid of our supervisors, we reached a tremendous milestone in our intellectual lives with the successful submission and defense of our theses.

Despite the knowledge and wisdom gained during our education at Skytte, a number of questions raised in our studies remain contested and unsolved. Was Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence precedent setting? Will humanity ever be able to digitally submit a document to the German government? These challenges will likely remain pertinent to our careers in the decades to come.

Nonetheless, my peers and I now appreciate that sometimes the most stimulating and profound thought is found not in the center, but the periphery. The ways and means for understanding and even solving these complex issues may not necessarily come from Brussels, Washington, or Geneva, but from the vantage point of small states such as Estonia, or, the Netherlands.

However, for now we can pause our pondering of the worldly troubles of today, and embrace the ecstasy of celebration. But sometimes words fail to capture-emotions the way that pure sound is able to, and I may say that there is one sound in particular that captures the current emotional state of my peers and I: WHEEEEWWWW

On that note, I want to thank everyone for attending and making today’s event possible, and congratulations to those graduating!


Carl Frederick Liles
Graduate from the International Relations and Regional Studies curriculum
June 19, 2024.

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