Two years ago she moved to Estonia from China to enroll in the EU-Russia masters programme, a year and a half ago she married an Estonian, and today she works full time. Close to the end of her MA degree, Christina's life is divided between study, family and work. She can combine all of them without many problems, and she is excited about her future in the small, especially if compared with Beijing, Tartu.
Christina came to Estonia for the first time as an exchange student during her bachelor's studies. At that time she was studying English Language and Literature, but the University of Tartu offered her a wide range of courses from various faculties, allowing her to choose as many classes as she could handle. Thanks to this opportunity, she frequented the faculty of social science, and eventually found the EU-Russia studies programme, for which she decided to apply.
The multicultural environment of the University of Tartu is what she likes the most, although it is extremely different from her previous academic experience. The town is centered on the University of Tartu and people come from all over the world: "Tartu is surprisingly international, so small but so international!." The differences with Beijing are various: "China is mono-ethnic and limited by censorship, while in Estonia people are free to come and to openly express their opinions. For example on social media, you do not have to worry about saying something wrong or unpopular." Also, coming from the big chaotic Chinese capital, Christina appreciates population density of Estonian small cities surrounded by the calm nature.
Tartu is not dense, and this allow you to easily walk in the city center. The fact that there are not as many people as in my home country increases my quality of life. I like the peaceful feeling that Estonian cities give me. And, I love Estonian nature: forests and no people around.
During her academic studies, Christina found a job. When asked her how she managed to combine a full time work with a full time study, she said: "I tried to complete most of the curriculum requirements by the first year, when I did not have a job yet. And, later I somehow manage to study in the evening and weekends, while I work full time during the week." Her future plans are to stay in the Baltics, she's not considering the option of moving back to China, especially because at the moment she highly enjoys her job, as she declares: "It is future oriented and has a lot of potential for a career in this field. I do see my future in Estonia."
The Estonian language does not represent a problem for her future plans, given that the locals speak English, which is also the language of her workplace. Communication with her husband is easily handled in English as well, however Christina only understands a little Estonian. "I understand the basics but I cannot really communicate, and it can be a problem sometimes", she admits, "whenever we [her acquired Estonian family and her] organise any event all together, I cannot expect them to speak English all the time." She doesn't feel socially excluded, rather, as she honestly confessed, she is taking the language barrier as a motivation to learn Estonian.
Christina is willing to learn the language of her new country as well as she is motivated to know the culture of Estonians. "What interested me the most is the youth culture, how the young generations think and behave", she pointed out, also adding that she often takes part in events aimed at young people, such as the start up events that connect young locals and foreigners to the world of work. In these kind of events, she has the opportunity to get in touch with other students coming from diverse backgrounds, with different opinions and views.
The variety of backgrounds is among the factors, according to her, that shape Estonian identity.
Their identity is connected to Estonia's past experiences, to families' backgrounds and to their openness to foreign ideas", she claims. Overall, she understands this identity as "a mixed picture of Soviet legacy and Western influence.
During these two years, she has learned a lot about this little country and its traditions, she has been able to integrate in an Estonian family and to appreciate the differences between her culture and the Estonian one, but there are still few things which continue to surprise her: how much Estonians can drink and how they can cope with minus zero degrees wearing spring clothes.