By Marke Mark ’17 (Tartu, Estonia / Cass City, MI) 

Earlier this month, Elisabeth Egel ’19 (Tallinn, Estonia / Armada, MI) found herself waiting at the Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport in Estonia. She had been waiting for this day for three years, but she wasn’t at the airport to get on a plane this time; instead, Elisabeth was there to reunite with her American host family and welcome them to her country. When Elisabeth finally caught sight of her host parents, she was beyond excited. From Michigan to Estonia, they were together again. 

Elisabeth had a wonderful chance to host her American host parents and show them around her home country. This reunion also brought back a lot of memories from the year they had spent together. At the same time, she also felt like they had never really been apart because they stayed in touch and talked very frequently during the last few years. 

Elisabeth and her host family visited lots of wonderful places such as the Old Town in Tallinn and several museums and churches in that area; Saaremaa, Estonia’s biggest island; Kadriorg Park; and art museums. They even got to visit Finland’s capital city, Helsinki, by going on a ship that cruises between Estonia and Finland many times a day. 

They also went to several concerts and operas, such as Organ Half Hour in Dome Church and La Troubadour in Estonian National Opera. Evon and Don, Elisabeth’s host parents, met Elisabeth’s family and celebrate Easter together. Evon and Don experienced some Estonian Easter traditions like painting eggs. 

“My host parents favorite experience was to meet my family,” Elisabeth said. “They also experienced a culture shock about seeing all the medieval things that the Old Town in Tallinn has to offer.”  

Evon and Don also noted that people in Estonia are very clean and a bit quiet. They tried a lot of things for the first time like the Estonian drink “Kali” –  in translation, Kvass–which is a fermented cereal-based, non-alcoholic beverage with a slightly cloudy appearance, light-brown color, and sweet-sour taste. 

“I am so grateful to the FLEX program and to have people like them in my life,” Elisabeth said. “It was a wonderful experience to exchange cultural knowledge, and I hope that we will be able to meet again.”