Good experiences

Prof. Simon Bell

Head of Department of Landscape Architecture

I am in the middle of my 6thyear here at EMÜ, having started in the beginning of the academic year of 2005 as a docent for 1 year and now I am professor and head of department of landscape architecture since the autumn of 2009. This has given me some perspective on things – I have experienced the heady days of the boom and the depths of the bust and am now shortly to see Estonia take the big step of joining the Euro – at a time when the currency is under great strain...

I have also seen a complete generation of students pass though the department and into the wide world of work. I have had the chance to work with a good number of staff from my own and other departments and to experience the highs and lows of academic life, university bureaucracy and life in Tartu.

I must say that now I feel at home here, even though I still formally reside in Scotland. At least the weather is better – summers can be longer and winters colder and more snowy - and that is a great relief from greyness and rain all year round (except this winter so far in Scotland). I find Estonia to be an interesting mix of fast-track modernity (“e-stonia” and much more integrated into the European cultural life than say Latvia) while retaining some frustrating aspects of bureaucracy and small-country, parochial thinking.

This is especially the case in the jealousy of the different professions, such as between architecture and landscape architecture, which is not an issue in the rest of Scandinavia or Western Europe. I am also frustrated by the lack of awareness in many areas of what landscape architects can offer to society and the fact that of all the northern countries it is the one which has not signed up to the European Landscape Convention.

On the plus side I find the quantity and quality of nature breathtaking and the closeness of the Estonian people to nature and traditions (which have been lost in the UK for example) refreshing.

I was a convert to the sauna experience before I came to Estonia, having experienced it in Finland (and also the banya in Russia) over several years already. However, to combine business meetings with the sauna is a delightful part of the way of life here in the EMÜ. I am also a fan of A.leCoq beer (Saku is rubbish) and enjoy the student-town atmosphere of Tartu which has a scale to suit me. All in all I have been made welcome and feel a strong attachment to Estonia, to Tartu and Estonians.  All I need to do now is to become more familiar with the language...