"In 2007 I came to Estonia to study. I usually don’t refer to those years as being here permanently, because it was more like visiting here from Latvia. I planned on playing pool professionally and eventually moving to Germany and devoting myself to my hobby. That stopped being the plan after I met the woman of my dreams, to whom I proposed to two months after we started dating. I got a job right after that and a year later we had our son.
Everything completely changed within a year. I can say that since 2010 I have been permanently living in Estonia. After getting married and becoming a father, I’ve experienced a lot of personal growth. Today little remains from my old personality and I can proudly say that I have developed a lot of new, good traits. I feel a somewhat better sense of belonging here in Estonia. This country has provided me with everything an individual can wish for to live a happy and prosperous life – education, family, job, social security, inclusion. Culturally and socially the difference between Latvians and Estonians is not very big.
I think this society is more accepting of me because we come from a similar historical background, where we share the pain and sorrow of the past and freedom from the present. In small countries, like Latvia and Estonia, this is a pivotal point that unites people. As a foreigner I had experienced discomfort when I went on a student exchange program to Cyprus. I was living in a neighbourhood where foreigners were not commonly seen so the people gazed at me wherever I went. But that was just in the beginning because they had never seen me before. Then I really understood what people may feel when they are pointed out because of their different cultural background, race, behavior or because they have a physical disability.
This feeling of exclusion and alienation sticks around and the sense of not feeling welcome remains. Back then I was in someone else's shoes and that reaffirmed my approach towards people - no matter how you look, behave or speak, it’s about being humane and understanding. Treat another human being as you would like to be treated. We don’t even realise what an impact media has on our views and lives. Studies abroad here in Estonia and my current job have convinced me that it’s important to listen to people’s stories who have been around as opposed to feeding off the mainstream media propaganda.
The fact that someone leaves their comfort zone, their own home and moves to another country shows that she/he is already open to new experiences and new challenges. It’s up to the local community to show these people a sense of belonging and acceptance. I work for Transferwise and it’s amazing that we have people from all over the world working in one place, for one cause."