The BEATS teams travelled to Estonia and Latvia during one of the coldest weeks of the year, what the British press called "The Beast from the East". In temperatures sometimes as low as –24, the participants of our project had the opportunity to live the real winter in cities of Riga, Tallin and Rapla. It was an experience worthwhile enjoying for all of us. The beauty of the cities and landscape, and more importantly, the warmth of our hosts will stay with us forever.
All the teams flew to Tallin and a bus took us to Rapla, our hosts’ hometown, which welcomed us covered in beautiful snow, and even if it was undeniably cold, we were all fascinated by the sight of the white streets and fields as soon as we arrived. The guesthouse we were staying in was perfect for the occasion.
Our Etonian hosts had prepared the welcome dinner and organized cultural activities with music. We even (almost) learnt to sing a traditional Estonian song in Estonian and dance to it!
First thing in the morning, it was time to introduce ourselves, students and coordinators, with presentations where coordinators presented their institutions, and students told us a bit about themselves.
Then we went to the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, where a Eures representative gave us a general feedback about CVs and gave some tips to improve them.
After lunch in a local restaurant, we met a business consultant who gave us a very interesting presentation about how digitized life has become in Estonia. We were impressed to find out how integrated Internet has become in everyday life for Estonians, making managing services easier for businesses and citizens in general, such as creating a start-up company, which takes only a few minutes with our computer or your mobile phone.
In the evening, we went to Toosikannu Safari Park, where we had the chance to see animals in their natural habitat. Due to the extremely cold weather conditions, we could not go for a walk, but we were lucky to spot some deer from the Russian bus. After a Short presentation by the executive director of Toosikannu Holiday Centre, we enjoyed a delicious dinner and then it was time for sauna or a chat.
The second day in Estonia started travelling to Tallin and with a visit to the company Pipedrive for students, while the teachers held their first coordinators’ meeting of the mobility.
The visit to Pipedrive was most interesting. These are some of the students impressions after the visit:
“What struck me the most in those companies was their business culture. For instance, flexible working hours are standard, employees can come whenever they want to work, even at night.” (Wendy Mazy)
“Pipedrive is a “Google” of Estonia. By that we mean that it has an excellent working culture and we were really impressed by what we saw. From the moment you step inside the office you immediately notice that the employees either wear home slippers, or just walk in socks. That makes them feel themselves at home.” (Elena )
After a quick lunch, all the participants were divided in groups to visit small companies they had previously chosen according to their own interests.
Then we all went to the old part of Tallin and we had some free time to stroll around the beautiful frozen streets and enjoy the mesmerizing sights or the city. In the evening we had dinner in a popular traditional restaurant, where we were transported to the Middle Ages for a few hours.
The third day of the mobility was divided between the activities in Estonia in the morning with the travelling to Riga in the afternoon. In the morning, we visited Minna Sahver, a small company which produces a wonderful delicious homemade marmalade.
Then, we went to Puraviku Smithy, an old forge, located in an ancient windmill and they showed us in situ how they work the metal with their traditional tools.
After lunch and a little free time to have a look around the shops in Rapla, we started the journey to Riga, our next destination. We had a stop in the four hours’ drive to the capital of Latvia. The light was so beautiful that we were compelled to stop and gaze for a few minutes at the last moment of the sunset on the beach at Pludmale.
Our hosts in Riga welcomed us with a delicious dinner at Alius Lingua, their school, situated very close to our hotel in the old part of Riga.
The agenda in Riga was also very busy and varied. We started on Thursday morning with a walk around the city and a visit to the Institute of Anatomy and Anthropology, guided by Alius Lingua students. It was really interesting to have the chance to see the Institute and check ourselves the digital equipment the real students of Anthropology practice with.
After the walk we visited the City Hall, where the municipal PR gave us a tour of the building and explained to us the mechanisms of the institution. We even met one of the popular municipal cats that live there.
In the afternoon it was time for the workshop on presentation skills. Students had to work in groups and prepare a presentation on a real Latvian company. The multicultural approach to working together was one of the factors that the students valued most of this activity.