Tallinn City Center Expat Chat: Cassandra from Canada

Cassandra from Canada.
Cassandra from Canada. Source: Private collection.

The fifth interview in our collaboration with the "Tallinn City Center New Arrivals Project" is with Cassandra from Canada.

This interview was carried out by Svetlana Štšur project manager of "Tallinn City Center New Arrivals Project" which is run by Tallinn City Center (Kesklinn) Government with support from the European Social Fund.

Every month, Štšur will interview an expat living in Tallinn and discuss why they moved to Estonia, what they like about the capital and their recommendations for other newcomers.

Cassandra from Canada 

Cassandra moved from Brussels to her partner's country of Estonia during the pandemic and has no regrets about their decision.  She said the restrictions during the state of emergency in Estonia were on the moderate side, as citizens were still allowed to move outdoors freely. Cassandra thanks that Estonian "kohukesed" could conquer the international market and Estonia's bogs and ecosystems are worth exploring. She is an EU Climate Pact Ambassador and wishes to change Estonia and the world for the better. 

"One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Estonia and started researching local history and studying the language was that the country has a lot of potential," said Cassandra, "but there is a problem of finding a broader vision. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, remarkable work has been done to move on from the past. Estonians do, indeed, have reason to be proud of how their country has developed. At the same time, I think the moment has also come for it to step out of its comfort zone and seriously think about how to further progress forward." 

Cassandra recalls an incident from a few days ago. "A young lady approached me in the city centre and complimented me on my hair," she explained. "She said, 'I really like your hair. It's very beautiful.' While it may seem trivial, it was a very pleasant surprise, because the girl looked rather young, no older than 16. I can imagine how much courage it took for her to compliment a stranger in a foreign language. And imagine that – I didn't bite!" Cassandra laughs and says the incident made her day better and reminded her of her homeland. "It would be so wonderful if Estonians saw opportunity rather than risk in new people."

"I grew up in the concrete jungle of Toronto. Although my city has quite a few green spaces, it is still a large urban centre. I didn't go climbing in the mountains every weekend, nor did I play with bears as a child (laughs). When I was eight, my grandfather made it his aim to advance my reading and gave me two books as a gift: one about astrology and the other on ecology. I read both books and at the age of nine faced a difficult choice: whether to become an astronaut or an ecologist! (Laughs)

"From an early age I considered the role I could play in ameliorating the environmental challenges I saw. It had always been apparent to me that we were part of nature, not separate from it. I went on to study politics and law, and had a special interest in legislation concerning the environment. I have worked as an environmental activist as both a volunteer and professional since 2017.

"From December 2020, I have been the EU Climate Pact Ambassador in Estonia, a diverse country with different challenges in its various regions. I chose Harju County as my area of focus because I live here and is the region I am most familiar with. The only other Estonian EU Climate Pact Ambassador works in Tartu and is Kaspar Kalev. The Ambassadorship is a one-year tenure.  During this time my aim is to encourage more people to become climate pact ambassadors, including representatives from the Russian-speaking community, whom I feel are not often involved enough with national discussions on social initiatives.

"The EU Climate Pact Ambassador programme is rather new and there is flexibility about what exactly ambassadors need to achieve during their term. The larger aim, of course, is advocacy and increasing people's awareness in the environmental field. The topics very close to my own heart are biodiversity conservation, energy efficiency, and the intersection of human rights with the environment. Although, my expertise leans more towards the influence of chemicals on health and the environment: cosmetics, household cleaners, food products, pesticides and the like."

Tips on how to survive in Estonia as a foreigner:

- Study the Estonian language as well as the country's history.

- Sauna is "a thing"! I am certain one of the reasons I haven't fallen ill yet is the sauna in my apartment. (Laughs)

If you are interested in the work of the EU Climate Pact Ambassador and have questions for Cassandra, you can contact her here: cassandra.carrkaljo@bef.ee

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Editor: Helen Wright

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