Study Abroad – An Interview with Allen Greb – Estonia Faculty Advisor

Allen Greb Faculty AdvisorCan you explain why this particular program was developed?
It was developed because of the connection we have with the University of Tartu, which is the premier university in Estonia. Estonia is only a country of 1.3 million people and the university is like the Harvard of Estonia. We developed the program to fit our students, both in ISCOR and at San Diego State in general. It’s an usual program – we combine the study of a small country, Estonia, with a much larger country, Russia.

What will individuals get from studying abroad and studying in Estonia?
An understanding of different cultures, looking at international issues from very different perspectives. It’s valuable in particular to ISCOR students, but it’s also valuable for individuals interested in learning more about the world and how it works.

Why was Estonia chosen as a study location?
It fit into a general strategy that already existed at the University of Tartu and the bonus is the connections that Tartu had with St. Petersburg State University and the school of international relations. The official governmental relationship between Estonia and Russia is very tense , but academic connections are very good.

What are the highlights of the program?
The highlight of Estonia and Russia is where they are – their geostrategic position. You’ve got Estonia that borders Russia. It’s very unique in that it’s a small country trying to make its place both in terms of technology and economically. It’s trying to integrate into the European Union and a larger global community.

It’s not just a trip to the Baltic countries, and their place in NATO, Europe, and the Eurozone. It’s also connected to Russia and its relationships with a small Baltic country that used to be part of the Soviet Union. And, the opportunity to study at St. Petersburg State University, which is one of the most prestigious universities within Russia. Also working with international students, since they have a large international student body.

What kind of activities/homework are a part of this program?
The two-week course is operated as a lecture discussion. For example, we go to the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg and listen to a lecture then have a discussion on issues of the day, foreign policy, and economic and social issues. That is in the morning, then in the afternoon we’ll go to either a historic site or an excursion to an important cultural site – the Hermatage or Katherine’s winter palace. Or, we’ll visit the National Parliament in Estonia. Students also have plenty of time on their own to explore.

The formal program students are required to keep an extensive journal and write a reflective paper on the entire experience, either while they’re there or when they return. The paper should talk about things that they learned, how it might connect to their interests, and their future career.

How is the food?
Food in Estonia is pretty German, cold weather food. Of course all of the American fast food restaurants are represented in Estonia.

Is there anything that I didn’t ask that you would like to comment on?
I would like to stress the cultural experiences that the students get. For example, we’ll go to a performance at the Mernsky Theater, we will take in an opera or ballet. They get a very different sense of how they see the world through these cultural experiences.