“My connection to Estonia extends through my Father’s side of my family. His parents emigrated from Estonia, like so many others, after the Second World War, seeking refuge from the war-torn and Soviet occupied nation.
My first experience with Estonia was in 5th grade, when we were asked to give a presentation on the country our family was from. I remember feeling a certain pride in being the only one to represent Estonia, a country my peers had never heard of. A couple of years later I got a chance to experience Estonia when my father took my brother and me to visit his brother in Tallinn. The experience of travelling such a long distance to such an unfamiliar place was profound, creating lasting memories and certainly influencing my future decision to move here.
I returned to Estonia several times as an adult to visit my brother who had moved to Tallinn, eager to experience Europe and a culture outside of the United States. During these trips I developed an even closer connection with the country, people and lifestyle. Over the course of these short trips, Estonia began to feel like a place I could call home. In 2008 I decided to join my brother in Tallinn permanently—or at least as permanently as I could handle emotionally at that time.
Because our Father’s parents were both Estonian citizens by birth, my siblings and I were also eligible for citizenship. The first year proved to be an emotional challenge. In Pittsburgh I had a home—family, friends and the comfort of familiarity and habit. Flying to Tallinn with a one-way ticket was something I had never done before. Here was a new challenge without a foreseeable end. The first year became more about survival than anything else—finding a job that would pay bills, not necessarily evolve into a career. After ten months, I was on the brink of returning to the US.
Time and trust changed everything. Things started falling into place. I have now been in Tallinn for nearly eight years, I’m working a dream-job teaching at the Tallinn European School and pursuing a Master’s Degree at Tallinn University in teaching English as a foreign language. I am more fulfilled artistically than I ever felt in the U.S. and have so many amazing opportunities in Tallinn that I could never have imagined when I first boarded that plane.
I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunities I have in Tallinn, Estonia, and Europe. I know that I am privileged to have been eligible for Estonian citizenship and to be welcomed in the country as someone who ‘belongs.’ There are many others who, sadly, do not receive the same warm welcome for various reasons. But I hope that, as a migrant to this country, I can be an example to others as someone who has created a life here—who feels, wholeheartedly, that Estonia is a country worth calling home.”