As a last blog post I figured I would write about my experience in Tartu since I was able to speak with one of the most interesting people I have met in Estonia. While exploring the city, our tour guide, Karl, showed us the Fraternity house of one the student societies on campus. As a member of a fraternity back home, I was interested in the differences between this part of college culture. Karl described the process of becoming a member and the resposibilites of each person in the society. As in America, students who want to join the society must go through a pledging process. However, this process for Karl’s fraternity took a full year, contrasting greatly with the half a semester I spent with my pledge brothers at my home fraternity. In addition, the pledges (or “foxes” in the case of Estonian fraternities) must learn to make public speaches for their brothers, ballroom dance, and even be prepared to declare a dual if the fraternity’s reputation is threatened. Apparently, many of the traditions of these fraternities come from German culture and practices rather than Greek culture, as in America. Overall, my experience of the city was greatly impacted by the time I was able to learn about college culture in a very European setting. Learning about university brotherhood in this context was probably the most connected I have felt so far with either Estonian or Russian culture.
– Colin Strickland