Estonia 3.3.18 -10.3.18
Saturday, 3rd of March
March 3, 2018, was the first day of our journey to Estonia. We met very early at the Hanover Airport to have enough time for checking in and going through the security check. The flight to Frankfurt was calm and when we arrived we had plenty of time to get to our next gate. Our plane had a half-hour delay but that was okay for all of us because we had good conversations. The flight to Tallinn lasted two and a half hours and when the plane descended slowly, we were able to see the big amount of snow that covered the Estonian landscape. After we went out of the airport - luckily with everyone's luggage - the Estonian German teacher welcomed us to Estonia. It was already dark outside and very cold, so some of us were shivering. Good for us that we all brought warm clothes. Then the teacher guided us to a small bus and we drove off to a nearby shopping center where we were supposed to meet the group from the Netherlands but before that, we had a little free time to get some snacks. About half an hour later we met up with the group from the Netherlands. They were really nice and we talked about how our journey had been until we drove to Narva together. Everyone was quite exhausted but we all could still talk to each other, only a few used those three hours to get some rest. When arrived, our partner students were already waiting for us in the hotel lobby. We came out of the bus and the first thing we did was hug our partner students. Most of us already knew their partners from their visit in Germany back in December. It was very cold, so we got into the cars fast and drove to our new homes for the week.
Sunday, 4th of March
Because the Spanish people used the Sunday for travelling the Dutch and us Germans had plenty of time to spend the day with our exchange students and host families. Some of us went to a frozen waterfall, others took a walk on the Baltic Sea and for me it meant the first time ever to trying to skiing. Neither was I properly equipped with something even coming close to waterproof clothes nor do I have a general talent for sports (not even talking about winter sports). So perfectly prepared, we took off for the one hour car ride and brought along a family friend so there was no chance of getting cold with three people on the backseat. The so called "hill" was made of the leftovers of some kind of coal industry and not comparable to the German Harz or the Alps but still seemed scary to my unexperienced self. After lending the skiing gear and learning that they need your height, shoe size (of course) and your weight for that (I was a little shocked, you don't ask girls about their weight!!) I was somewhat ready for my first skiing lesson. A colleague of my host father also visited the resort with his family and his wife happened to be a skiing teacher. With her help and support I started my first ever skiing session on the kids' slope where almost every other fellow had about half my size, but twice my experience. After studying the very basics like stopping and the easiest way of turning I advanced to the next higher slope. Confidently practicing my turns and feeling the slow improvement in my skills made me confident to end my first skiing experience with a ride down the highest slope of the hill. I'm not sure whether it was a good or bad decision but I did it anyway. On top of the hill I failed horribly because I was so scared of the speed I couldn't do my turns to reduce that speed so I fell down three times and struggled to get up a lot. The teacher that coached me before came by and step by step helped me to regain my confidence and do my turns to get down the hill. I was very proud of my accomplishments of the day and super exhausted when we arrived home from our time out in the snow. Additionally (especially looking back at it know) everyone was happy I didn't catch a cold because my clothes were pretty soaked after my little struggle with the slope.
Monday, 5th of March
Our Monday began with breakfast like every other normal day. After preparation we went to school where we had an introductory speech held by the principal of the school. After a brief introduction of Estonia as a digitalised country, Narva, and the school, we began with some funny games to "break the ice". After those, we were given a tour through the historical school building. We continued with jigsaw-style group work to introduce the different aspects of Digitalism in Estonia such as the ID card, E-Voting and the various online services. After lunch, we were split into 2 groups and explored Narva. One group was walking around Narva while the other explored the secrets of the castle. The ones exploring the secrets of the castle were dressed up as monks and knights and were supposed to solve a riddle to find one number and one code consisting of letters. After searching almost every room, including the ones where visitors normally are not allowed to go, both groups solved the riddle and got the price, which was a picture printed on a magnet. Most of the German group were visiting the college afterwards and enjoyed some hot chocolate/cake/coffee/lemonade in the cafeteria of the college.
Tuesday, 6th of March
Our day began fairly early with everyone meeting at a local youth centre called VitaTiim where we would spend our day. We were given a small tour through the building and got to listen to a presentation about a few of the digital services that Estonia has to offer, examples of which include the e-health system, e-citizenship, the online tax-system, i-voting and the smart-ID. We learned a lot of different things, a few of which we were already told on Monday but I personally didn't mind that. After learning about those services we went on to work on the topic of the internet and how it has affected our society. For that, we split up into smaller groups mostly consisting of 3-6 people, with at least one person from every country. Each group received a scenario, that was in some way related to the internet, such as "a future where the internet has taken over". Every group then had to produce a short video dealing with that topic. So we all got together in our groups and started planning, preparing and eventually shooting. After a little while, we all walked over to the school for a short break and lunch. We then returned to VitaTiim to continue working on our videos and after we were all finished we watched and discussed them together. The videos turned out great and we had a lot of fun making them. Our last activity at the youth centre was a group debate about the i-voting system where we discussed the pros and cons of having an important system like this being digitalized and online. We initially wanted to make surveys before and after the discussion to see if it would change any people's opinions but that plan sadly didn't work out because some of the students had to leave early which would have affected the results of the second survey. The debate was really interesting nonetheless and it was interesting to see all the different aspects and sides of the topic.This was the end of our program for the day and we all had free time for the remaining hours. Kirill, Jorit and I got together and went to visit Kirill's grandparents, where we spent some time and had some coffee and cake. Since I had visited them the day before, they already knew me, but Jorit was a completely new person which they were happy to meet. They welcomed both of us and offered us food and a place to sit. Kirill's grandfather showed us a few of his many collections and told me stories about his time in the GDR during the Cold War. What really surprised me was that, despite the fact that he only spoke Russian and I only spoke English, most of the time we both understood what the other person was trying to say. Afterwards we met with Sunny, Sabrina, Rieke, Alicia, Alina and Anastassia at a mall called Astri and went shopping. The mall was fairly big for a town of around 57000 people and had a lot of different stores and even places like a bowling alley. We went to a few different shops and despite the fact that I mostly bought clothes, I still think I got some great souvenirs to remind me of my time Estonia. In the evening a few of us decided to go into the cinema, which was also located at the mall and watch the movie Black Panther. Since (unlike in Germany) movies are rarely dubbed in Estonia, Black Panther was shown in English with both Estonian and Russian subtitles, which made it possible for us to watch and understand it. Before going into the cinema we met a really nice guy called Vlad, who went to watch the movie with us. Another person we met was a very friendly woman from California who was doing a social project with teachers in Estonia and therefore stayed in the country for a little while. Since it was getting late after we left the cinema, we all said goodbye to each other and to our new friends and our group disbanded because we were all starting to head home. That was at least what I thought we were doing, but I was wrong. Instead of going home we let Jorit guide us to Ivans house. Together with Ivan and a friend of his we made pancakes for the next school day. It was hard for me to not eat all of the pancakes right away but I managed to stop myself from doing so and in the end, we had a big amount of pancakes prepared. Unlike earlier, this actually did mark the end of the day and Kirill and I left Ivans house to go home. In summary, I can say that I had a really eventful and fun day with lots of activities and even some new friends that I got to meet.
Wednesday, 7th of March
On Wednesday my exchange partner told me that we were going to attend her English class. I was quite happy about that since it was obviously taught in English and not in Estonian. The classrooms looked quite the same as in Germany. They were pretty modern and well-equipped. As the English teacher arrived, she told us that the topic for the lesson was "taking risks" and that we would start with a short YouTube video. Remarkable about her teaching-technique was that she was picking every student in turns, so nobody raised their hand during the lesson. I later asked my exchange student about it and apparently this technique is not very common in Estonia. The other Germans later told me that they talked about the crusades during the middle ages in history and about ions in chemistry. After the first lesson, everyone met in the auditorium in order to begin working on the brochures. When everybody was there, we began our work with two short warm-up games. After that, we prepared and short presentations about the rally which we had done on Monday. The main goal of this was to boost our team-working-skills. We then had a coffee break. After that, we worked on our brochures which were about the modern and digitalized country that is Estonia. I was in the group which talked about the topic "smart-ID". After that we ate lunch in the cafeteria and went to the Narva Bastion called "Victoria Bastioni Kasematid". It was actually built by the Swedes back when Narva was their second most important city. It served as protection during numerous wars and for several rulers from different states. It was restored in the beginning of the 21th century and nowadays functions as a museum. The next activity we did was bowling but since we had some spare time between the visit of the bastion and going bowling, our exchange students and we went to a local supermarket. As we arrived at the bowling center,we saw that we had the center all for ourselves. The teachers we also present but didn't join us in playing. The bowling center looked pretty similar to the ones we have in Germany but there were two main differences. First, the owners didn't charge us for played games but for time (we paid for 90min) and second, there was a display in front of every bowling alley with features such as "take a selfie". The picture would then appear every time when it´s the player´s turn. They also played music, turned on the smoke machine and put on colorful light. After the bowling we were free for the day. So, some of us decided to first eat some pancakes in the shopping mall and then visit Vitaa Tiim (a learning and youth center) in order to play some games. All in all, it was an eventful and exhausting day, in which I learned a lot about Estonian technology and the city of Narva. The best thing about the day was the English lesson I had attend since I find it fascinating to see the differences between a foreign school system and the German one.
Thursday, 8th of March
Today we went to Tallinn. That is the reason why we met at 6:30 am in the front of the school. The trip to Tallinn took about 2 ½ hours. The stop at a pull-in included, where we sang birthday songs in all languages for Tim van Etten, because it was his birthday. As we arrived in Tallinn we went up a hill to the Estonian parliament "Riigikogu". We had twenty minutes left, so one half of the group went into the orthodox church on the other side of the street and the other group went to a souvenir shop nearby. After these twenty minutes all of us had to line up, the first twenty were allowed to go into the building to go through security and passport check by the national police. In a room behind the control we were able to leave our bags and jackets. Then the guide showed us all the first room which was the White Room where all celebrations take place or where photos are taken. The room was restored in 2013 but still retains the same style as in the 18th century. The plenary room, where an actual session was taking place when we sat down on the visitors' seats on the balcony, was the following room. The guide told us that the sessions was about the topic of crime. The hall was not really decorated but well structured. Under our rows there was the main hall with 120 seats for the delegates. In this session there were 15 people. The reason for this little amount of people was that that the session was transmitted on a live podcast. When a bell rings for a vote all delegates come together to vote for or against a law. At this time the government is made up of a coalition between the conservatives, the center party and the social democrats. Furthermore there are two delegates who do not belong to a party anymore and in general around 300 employees work in the parliament. After visiting the parliament we went to sight-seeing locations where you can see the old part of Tallinn. For the e-Governance Academy we had to split the group into two. At 1:30 pm the first group visited the building and listened to a presentation which was quite similar to the one at "VitaTeam". Then the groups changed. The free time before/after the presentation was used as a rest to go to the shopping center "Solaris" or to eat something. The bus also picked us up at that shopping center to take us back to Narva, which took us again 2 ½ hours. In the evening the exchange students spend their time in their host families.
Friday, 9th of March
On Friday we finished our brochures about e-Estonia and presented our results to the team/ audience.
Since this was the last day, we expressed our feelings about the past week. We also decided on the logo for the project. Right after having lunch, the cantine had a surprise for us; a cake with the European flag with the flags of each country that participated.After having eaten the cake, we got on a bus to see Siminae. We had a great overview of almost the entire county, even though it was kind of foggy due to the snow. Subsequently to only seeing the Baltic Sea from afar, we made our way to Narva-Joessu, which has a 12 km long beach, which was fully covered in snow and ice, including the bay of Finland. On site, we had the grand finale - a snowball fight on the beach, leaving many of us soaked to the bones. Gaining more impressions of the winter wonderland that was Estonia at the time, we walked towards the meeting point. A few minutes later, the bus took off, heading back to Narva, leaving Diana and Alina behind as they were based in Narva-Joessu. Other pupils decided to end the week with a karaoke night. It was a successful end to a great week that we all will carry in our memories.
Saturday, 10th of March
he last day. We met at 10:30 am at the hotel. Everyone with their exchange partners and a big suitcase. We took last pictures and then it was time to say goodbye. It was very sad because we all have had a great time together and now everything should be over soon. We all hugged each other and some of us even cried. When we entered the bus, our exchange partners stood outside and kept waving until we were out of sight. It was very sad! But some of us promised, to see each other again soon! We drove by bus for almost three hours and when we arrived at the airport it was still very much time left until we had to start boarding. During that time we sat together in a small airport-restaurant and talked about what had happened during our week in Estonia, it was very nice. After some time we went through security and then waited at our gate for about an hour until our plane was finally ready for boarding. During the flight most of us were watching movies or reading a book, it was, like our other flights, very relaxing. But then, at the airport in Frankfurt, we hurried through the airport to catch our connecting flight. We made it just in time, but because we had to change terminals it was kind of a long way until we finally reached the gate. That was the time when we all got excited for our families and friends. There was not much time left until we would finally see them again! In Hanover we said goodbye to each other and thanked everyone for this amazing week because it really was an amazing time!
The teachers perspective
Erasmus+-Projekt: Jugend 4.0-Europa leben!
Jugendliche Lebenswelten im Kontext von Migration, Integration und Mobilität
Erfahrungsbericht Aktion C7
Estland ist ein Vorreiter der Digitalisierung des öffentlichen Lebens innerhalb der europäischen Union. Davon ausgehend verfolgten die Aktivitäten in Estland das Ziel, Chancen, aber auch Risiken der Digitalisierung aufzuzeigen und entsprechend zu evaluieren. Digitalisierung spielt insbesondere in den Bereichen Mobilität, Integration und Inklusion eine kaum zu überschätzende Rolle - insofern leisten die estnischen Aktivitäten einen wertvollen Beitrag dazu, Kommunikationsmöglichkeiten zu eruieren, die sich in diesem zentralen Aspekt zeitgenösssischen jugendlichen Lebens in Europa widerspiegeln.
So machten sich die Projektpartner am Wochenende des 3. März 2018 auf ins noch sehr kalte Estland, um der Digitalisierung des öffentlichen Lebens und der Schule auf den auf den Grund zu gehen. Am ersten Projektarbeitstag, dem 05.03.2018, stand zunächst das gemeinsame Kennenlernen im Vordergrund, wobei bereits hier erste Berührungen mit den vielfältigen E-Dienstleistungen in Estland stattfanden, die den GastschülerInnen in international gemischten Gruppen an verschiedenen Stationen durch die estnischen Schülerinnen und Schülern vorgestellt wurden.
Am Dienstag, den 06.03., fand eine Kooperation mit dem Jugendzentrum "VitaTeam" statt - hierbei wurden im Sinne der Projektarbeit vor allen Dingen die Vor- und Nachteil von elektronischer Schulverwaltung und elektronischen Wahlen erörtert.
Auch Mittwoch, der 07.03., stand ganz im Zeichen der Projektarbeit. Hier wurden wiederum in international gemischten Gruppen die Vor- und Nachteile der in Estland sehr weit vorangeschrittenen Digitalisierung erörtert, beispielsweise der estnische Personalausweis, der viele Funktionen in sich vereint (bis hin zur Ausstellung elektronischer Rezepte), das System "Smart-ID", aber auch die vorgenannten elektronischen Wahlen, "e-school" oder die Plattform E-Estonia, die als zentrale Anlaufstelle der estnischen E-Dienstleistungen konzipiert wurde. Am Nachmittag ging es dann in die Phase der Produkterstellung. Die jeweiligen Expertengruppen erarbeiteten zu ihrem jeweiligen Spezialthema eine Broschüre, die das jeweilige Konzept vorstellt sowie Vor- und Nachteile desselben darlegt.
Der Folgetag sah einen Besuch in Tallinn, eine Besichtigung des estnischen Parlaments sowie einen Vortrag an der estnischen e-Governance Academy vor. Leider war es nicht möglich, einen Termin mit dem estnischen Datenschutzbeauftragten zu bekommen. Der Besuch der estnischen Parlaments war sehr spannend und informativ, selbst eine Debatte der Abgeordneten konnte vom Zuschauerbalkon aus verfolgt werden. Der Vortrag an der e-Governance Academy vertiefte noch einmal die Kenntnisse, die im Zuge der bisherigen Projektarbeit an der Schule bzw. im Jugendzentrum erlangt wurden und zeigte vor allem die historische Entwicklung der estnischen Digitalisierung auf.
Zurück in Narva galt es am Freitag, den 09.03., die Broschüren zu den einzelnen Themengebieten fertigzustellen und zu präsentieren - dieser Schritt stellte den Abschluss der gemeinsamen Projektarbeit dar. Ein gemütliches Beisammensein am Mittag diente als Abschluss einer unvergesslichen Woche an der Narva Vanalinna Riigikol - als Abschiedsgeschenk gab sogar einen selbstgebackenen Kuchen mit dem Erasmus+-Motto sowie den Flaggen der beteiligten Länder.
Neben der Projektarbeit spielte auch die interkulturelle Erfahrung eine wichtige Rolle. Während zumeist die Vormittage ganz im Zeichen der Projektarbeit standen, waren für die Nachmittage oftmals kulturelle und historische Aktivitäten in und um Narva und auch in Tallinn vorgesehen - so z.B. wurden Stadt und Schloss erkundet, auch eine alte Bastion, die der Verteidigung der Stadt diente, konnte besichtigt werden. Insgesamt ist vor allem die Gastfreundlichkeit der estnischen Gastgeber aufgefallen, die uns tief beeindruckt hat.
Bettina Peitsmeyer und Marcel Thoene