Interviews with exchange students part 1: Estonia

doorMascha Bloemer

Interviews with exchange students part 1: Estonia

A guest contribution by Robin Dillerop

In the debating scene there are many international students. Actually there are societies that are bilingual and try to attract as many exchange students as possible. To see what it is like to study abroad, we decided to start a series of interviews with exchange students about their experiences here and in their home country.

But why should we write everything ourselves if it is already there? For Counterpropped, the LDU magazine, editor Robin Dillerop already interviewed an exchange student. Lauri Kriisa is a master student from Estonia who has been studying in Leiden this year. He is in Estonia at the moment, but will join us at EUDC Zagreb 2014.

We want to thank both Lauri and Robin for giving us permission to publish this interview to start our series.

Lauri has been debating with us for the previous year, being on sabbatical from his other debating society, while studying abroad here, in the Netherlands. He very kindly took some time to discuss his experiences as a member of two societies.

1) First of all, would you tell the readers something about your debating society back home, in Estonia?

During my university years in Estonia I frequented the Tartu Debating Society, run by students of Tartu University. Attendance is open to everyone, regardless of whether they are students at the university. For me, joining the society was a logical step following three years in secondary school debating. Besides being the best place in Tartu to practice university debating, it was also a gathering place for people that I already knew from previous debating events.

2) In your other society, do you predominantly debate in Estonian and, if so, what was it like to switch to English?

One of our weekly nights is in Estonian and the other is in English. I guess that is justified by the smaller number of international students in Tartu. Still, the once-a-week occasion of debating in English guaranteed that I didn’t come to LDU as a “switch”.

3) You once mentioned that you only started going to international tournaments once you joined LDU. Tell us about that. How have your experiences been on the international playing field?

I might have simplified issues when I said that. The point was that I had not travelled outside of the Baltics for an international tournament before coming to LDU. Still, LDU people definitely do more travel-debating than I was used to. I don’t think that is because people in Tartu were less interested. The Netherlands is just better connected to the rest of Western-Europe.
For the tournaments I have been to, they have been a complete blast without exceptions. The road-trips to and back from tournaments have been especially fun, mostly thanks to the excellent company. If I wanted to be really cheesy, I would say that, although I’ve managed to lose quite a lot of money, a phone and a passport, I also found a number of great friends. The debating part was also really cool of course.
To clarify, when talking about international tournaments I mean everything that happens outside of Leiden. I still cannot point to Middleburg on a map.

4) What kind of skills have you learned debating with LDU?

Being able to carry a pint of beer in two glasses. Seriously though, my overall debating skills have definitely improved. The large number of workshops has made me look at debating in a more structured way. Also, debating with the people here has introduced me to a variety of different skills I did not even know to pursue, such as not prepping or being able to produce a feminist argument in a debate about EU economy.

5) There’s a chance that you’re going to the European Debating Championship in Augustus. If you win any of the titles, who does the credit go to for teaching you to be a top debater: LDU or the Tartu Debating Society?

To set the record straight, the official expectation of me and Lennart is to almost break. As for accolades, I have been given the honour to represent LDU, which deserves all possible official credit. When talking about the sources of my debating skills though, it would be impossible to distinguish the two. I am proud to call myself a member of both.

Good answer!

6) Before we end this interview, are there any unique or arbitrary facts about Estonia that make you proud to be Estonian and which you would like to share with our readers?

There are a number of cool things about Estonia that I really like. Its IT-savvy nature is one of them. Estonia has invested heavily into the development of its computer infrastructure and education. The results keep providing news-worthy examples of innovation, like the fact that the people behind the software for Skype and Kazaa are Estonian. And, like all other citizens, I can use the ID-card in my pocket to do my taxes, sign my documents and vote – all online. Also, Estonia had free Wi-Fi in public places and transport before it was cool. Not bragging or anything, but you did ask.

Thank you for this interview and on behalf of the editorial staff, I wish you the very best with whatever your future endeavours may be.

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Mascha Bloemer contributor