Cultural Connections Across the Years – Richard C. Hoffman IV – Estonia 2013

My Fulbright was spent in Estonia during the spring semester of 2013 at the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration at the University of Tartu. I chose Estonia and Tartu for both professional and personal reasons.

My wife and I have strong roots in Europe. My mother was a war bride from France, as a doctoral student I spent a year in Switzerland collecting data for my dissertation. Moreover, my wife Karin and her family are Estonian, having immigrated to the US in the late forties. My father- in-law was a graduate of the University of Tartu.

Professionally, I taught a doctoral seminar in Strategic Management. It was a thrill working with motivated graduate students. I also co-taught an Executive MBA course on Business strategy with two other professors one of whom I subsequently worked on a research project with. In addition, I gave guest lectures to some undergraduate classes. On the research front, I worked with two UT colleagues on two different projects. One project consisted of two studies examining bankruptcies in Estonia, and the second project examined leadership and employment practices in an Estonian firm. These projects yielded three peer-reviewed publications within two years after returning from Estonia for myself and my colleagues.

I presented some of my other research both at an International Conference held at Tartu as well as in two seminars to faculty and graduate students. I accompanied some Tartu faculty to a branch campus in Narva to discuss research on the main campus. I also had the opportunity to exchange gifts with the Mayor of Tartu as Salisbury, MD is one of its sister cities.

Personally, we experienced friendships with colleagues, being entertained in their homes as well as out in restaurants. I spent a weekend learning about Estonia’s environmental program by participating in a seaside clean up in southern Estonia and visiting a bird sanctuary. We also took advantage of Estonian culture attending a dance festival. My wife served as a judge in a local high school English speaking contest. We also took advantage of our location in the Baltic region to visit Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and St. Petersburg, Russia. We became better acquainted with my wife’s cousins and their children and grandchildren and learned more about her family history.

We found Estonia to be a small country with a big heart. Proud of their heritage and poised for the future as one of the most wired (technologically) countries we have been to. The people are  reserved but friendly. The countryside is filled with meadows, forests, and picturesque villages. The cities of Tartu and Tallinn are charming and vibrant.

Today my university has an exchange program with the University of Tartu, and we hosted a Fulbright from Estonia upon my return to campus. We have returned to visit former colleagues and family since then and plan on returning again soon.

Overall, our stay in Estonia was one of the international highlights of our lives.

Richard C. Hoffman IV – Fulbright to Estonia 2013

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