Emma Prins: "Expectations and Ogres"
Address on Behalf of the Master’s Degree Graduates: Emma Prins, International Relations and Regional Studies Curriculum
Hello everyone, it is really nice to see everyone here today and all of you online. I am very happy to be speaking here as one of the MA graduates at Skytte.
I know you expect me to talk about how we all started out with hopes and excitement two years ago and then corona ruined them all… so I will. If you think about it, it is pretty insane that we were the last MA students to start their MA here not knowing what corona was, only knowing the beer. We had no idea a deadly virus would be going around. We didn’t know any better, unaware that we should consider ourselves “lucky” if the virus “only” affected us by messing up our plans and interfering with our academic and social lives.
So here we were, about two years ago, coming here to study – some of us familiar with the university and the city – and to a lot of unknown, as many of us are foreign. We came here with expectations about the programme, the university, and about Tartu and Estonia. I remember coming to Tartu expecting the second-biggest city of Estonia to be less small, even though Estonians have assured me many times it is big. It was a good thing, that not all expectations were met. For instance, I did not expect Tartu to so warm. Definitely not in terms of temperature nor in terms of strangers being talkative or smiling to you – if that happens in Estonia – run! No, I mean warm as in, cosy, small but big enough, full of light even during the dark winter days, and full of students upholding Tartu’s vibrant spirits.
But also the Estonian people turned out to be different than expected. I don’t know if anyone else googled what Estonia was like for foreigners… don’t do it! It turns out that I have grown fond of the Estonian way of doing things – why have small talk with a stranger when you both don’t want to? Why ask how someone is doing only when you truly care how someone is doing? Why not get to know each other better? A colleague once gave me a book in which Estonians were described as Ogres – like Shrek. Living in swamps, valuing their privacy. Or as Shrek himself said – we are like unions, we have layers. Why not get to know each other layer by layer? Maybe we can export some of this approach back to our home countries.
I was proven to be wrong about my assumptions about Tartu and Estonia, as well as about Skytte and studying here. Because of the freedom that Skytte offers us, all of our experiences in the past two years were different. Some of us went abroad, some of us stayed. We were able to take different courses, different specialisations, different thesis topics. All of us have just defended our thesis – going back two years ago I think I can speak for most of us that our thesis topic and intentions turned around 360 degrees. Some of us presented thesis topics very close to the core of our programmes, others presented different and unique topics – even though I am sure our programme manager, Eiki Berg, wanted all of us to write about de-facto states. Instead, we all came up with different topics and we put a lot of work into it, and we made it. I think it’s something to be proud of, because a MA programme is not a piece of cake, and definitely not during a deadly pandemic. Of course we couldn’t have done it without all the lecturers, the supervisors – all of the academic staff and the support staff. I want to say – thank you very much.
And to the rest of the MA students – I want to say, kudos to us. These probably weren’t the easiest two years of ours lives, but we made it. I think we should be proud of ourselves. Congratulations and thank you!
Emma Prins. Speech on graduation 22 June 2021
Video: UTTV 2021