My time in Palamuse
At first, I think it is good if I describe how I imagined Palamuse when I had been in Germany.
When I was in Germany, I imagined Palamuse being a little, agricultural village.
I watched some photos of Palamuse in the internet and thought it could be a little more „natural“ than my village in Germany, cause I found mostly just pictures of the river and the museum :D
I did not really think how the school could be, but I thought it’d be smaller than my school in Germany.
Also, I did not really think how the people might be, cause it had been hard for me to imagine how people might be if they live in another culture or country.
And I also think I’d have been a kind of senseless, cause people are always individual...
So, then I came to Estonia, had my preparation camp at Kurtna and after these four days, the trip to Palamuse with my host family started.
When we arrived in Palamuse, it had just rained, but I do not remember any more what my first thought when having arrived in Palamuse had been.
Think it was something like ’finally’...
When I now think on this time back, I believe I might have been a little too impressed about this new situation, think this had been one of a big mistakes I made.
If someone in the future is going to be an exchange student, I just can give you some sentences on your way: at first, be ALWAYS yourself. Do not let anyone else have any influence on you, it’s your life. As second, watch the situations which are new for you and think about them. Try to behave/react as you’d do in your home country, cause there you had been sovereign. And even if you then make some mistakes, it doesn’t matter, at least you showed that you can be sovereign.
And that’s important, cause so, people see that you are strong and confident.
But of course, some will regard you as arrogant or self-confident, but never care about them. They do not understand in which situation exchange students are, when they are for one year in another country/culture, without family or friends.
But now, back to topic.
In the first days, Mona, my first host sister, showed me the village and I worked with her and my host dad.
Then, on september 1st, school started. I already had been in the building to meet the head teacher, but on this day I saw other students in the building for the first time.
This moment had been very exiting for me but also kind of weird. And I had been very impressed by the number of good-looking girls in my school :D
It had been also as already written, a kind of weird. It felt as almost everyone’s eyes were pointed towards me...
Then, school really started and after the first week it felt kind of normal, teachers and other pupils knew by then that I did not understand anything.
The school itself is almost as big as my German school but the stuff seems to be newer.
Estonian lessons are different from German ones, but I do not want to judge any of them, cause every nation/culture needs it's own system.
I just say one thing more to school: Estonian teachers are often really awesome, but also different from the German ones.
But maybe I also just get to know them as being good teachers, cause they might be different speaking to me, an exchange student, than to their ''normal'' students.
Finding friends took some time for me, but I believe the ones I found, I can call them real friends, or at least I would like to be able to call them real friends.
I think it took some time because of me at first. And if people do not show really any interest in me, it is difficult for me to get in contact with them, cause then I do not see any reason.
Probably very stupid, I know.
The second reason why it took such a long time was the Estonian mentality. YFU Estonia already told us at the preparation camp, Estonians can be a little ''cold'' in the beginning and it could look as if they showed no interest in new persons or it could look like that they are a kind of ignorant.
I did not really believe this, at first, at interpretated their behavior really as ignorance or dis-interest.
But now, when I am in the process of changing families, I got in contact with some really awesome people and was able to talk really a lot and also talked about Estonians and I believe now I do understand them ot their mentality a little better.
Hope it'll help me a little when I go to a new family.
But to make a little resume: the shells of the Estonian people are hard to break,
but when someone is able to break them, then they will recognise that Estonians are usually really awesome. And if they once have started being awesome, as I got to know it, they are very hard to stop...
To be honest, I really began to like this mentality, especially because I think I do also have this mentality in a kind, it was just at first hard for me to notice this that other people can be like me here, cause in Germany, the people's mentality is different, even when there is a huge cultural connection from Germany and Estonia.
So please, exchange students in the future: please believe what YFU Estonia tells you about the Estonians, everything is true. Do not think they're joking when they tell you they can be ''very cold'' in the beginning, it's very true. Just make the effort to break their shell. It's worth it.
Matthias Happel, exchange student in 2011/2012
Palamuse location in Estonia. Picture taken from: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eesti_palamuse_vald.png