This winter break, a group of LSE students who study Russian with the LSE Language Centre had the opportunity to visit Tallinn in Estonia, to attend the special Winter School at Tallinn University. Estonia was a very interesting place to visit from a Russian learners’ perspective as there are speakers of both Russian and Estonian – the former being the language of the USSR which was in control in Estonia from 1940, and the latter being the mother tongue of native Estonians. Many native Russians moved to Estonia during the period of Soviet occupation, hence the duality of languages. It was a fantastic experience – Tallinn is a very beautiful old city in a true Baltic/Germanic style, and the Winter School was very valuable for our Russian learning.
Our very first session was spent taking a very difficult placement test! However, once sorted into our respective levels, we spent our mornings in classes learning in a very relaxed and enjoyable style. Our teacher Денис, was very helpful and patient, even if he did set us homework every day!
In the afternoons, we spent some of our time exploring the city – as much as we could in the freezing temperatures! The first few days saw almost continuous snow, which remained exciting to those of us who had spent the winter break in the unseasonable mild UK weather. The above average temperatures back in London, however, made the weather in Estonia much more of a shock! The average temperature during our week in Tallinn was around -18C (0F), so pretty cold. We did manage to go on a walking tour around Old Town, climb up to the elevated viewpoint above the city and also try out “the best hot chocolate in the world” in Chocolaterie Pierre.
On our final day we even had a little party in our classes, celebrating Russian Orthodox Christmas (Рождество), where we recited poems, sang songs (all in Russian of course!) and enjoyed Russian sweets and tea from a traditional самовар or tea urn.
When I started taking Russian as my outside module this year, many of my friends were not really aware of the LSE Language Centre, or the courses it offered as a part of a degree programme – those who did mainly knew about the extra-curricular language courses. The trip to Estonia is a great example of the ways that the Language centre can help you unlock new opportunities at LSE – you meet new people, get to visit new places and experience new cultures! It is also a chance to take a course which is a bit different to the usual outside options. I have really enjoyed taking LN101 (beginners Russian) this year – my only regret is not taking it last year!