Young man who moved to Estonia: I wish to be part of Estonian society

Dmitrii Filkin (20) grew up in Saint Petersburg, Russia. He visited Estonia with his parents when he was a child and it really made an impression – he saw it as a country he would like to return to for a longer period of time one day. After high school, he made his decision, and now, he is determined to contribute to Estonian society while he lives here. One such opportunity arose for him in the form of the work experience programme of the Integration Foundation.

Foto: erakogu


You grew up in Russia. What made you decide to move to Estonia after high school?

I believe that the impetus for this came from the memories I made when I visited Estonia as a child. My parents and I used to come here quite often. After high school, I found out that there was a great place here in Narva where I could get a higher education, so I decided to come here to study. I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Languages and Multilingualism in School at the University of Tartu Narva College, and I am in my third year of living here.

What do you like about Estonia?

I think Estonia is innovative not only in terms of technology, but also as a country and a society. Living here, I can see and experience all of that for myself. I am also interested in the native Russian speakers from Lasnamäe and Ida-Viru County who already live here. It interests me greatly why some of them have not yet been integrated into society so far or why they do not speak Estonian.

Speaking of language skills, your own Estonian is quite good. How did you achieve that?

I attribute that to both independent learning and courses offered by the university. If you come to Estonia as a foreign student, the university will provide you the opportunity to learn Estonian during your first year. I took advantage of this opportunity, and after that, I continued to do everything I could to practise the language enough. I have also attended courses at the Estonian Language House in Narva.

You took part in our autumn work experience programme. Where did you find out about it and why did you decide to apply?

I cannot even remember where I learned about it. I am, however, familiar with the activities of the Estonian Language House, and I must have found it while looking for information about their courses. However, I applied because I was already interested in how your country works when I arrived in Estonia and communicated with authorities. It is completely different from my home country, and I saw that this programme would help me to experience it all for myself and see it up close. The summer school and the information day at the joint building of ministries at the end of August were certainly also a boost. I have to admit that it all really spoke to me. As a young person, I was drawn in by how modern everything is here.

Which public institution did you have your work experience in and what were your duties there?

I did my work experience at the Integration Foundation and it was extremely interesting to be part of the work experience programme, in particular. For example, I was tasked with creating a feedback questionnaire for the participants in the programme, as well as a summary of the responses of the trainees. I was involved in the preparation of the schedule of the work experience programme and the preparation of information days. Among other tasks, I helped to put together a quiz on the topic. My supervisor and I also discussed the schedule and organisation of possible activities for the work experience programme.

How motivated are you to work in the Estonian public sector in general?

The work experience programme gave me my first exposure to the sector. I have always had a great interest in the work of the police officers and border guards here. Even when I was not living in Estonia, I watched them do their job. I could see that they all have a strong purpose in their work: to ensure and contribute to the security of the Estonian state. I can see that there are a lot of people in the Estonian authorities who want to make a proper contribution to making life in Estonia better. However, if I were to start my own job, I would be interested in language policy, first and foremost. I would like to continue my studies in linguistics here and then use the knowledge I have gained in the public sector.

What other memories do you have about the programme?

I liked the fact that even though I was a trainee, I was spoken to as an equal. I felt valued. In addition, the programme provides excellent language practice.

There are not many people with a different language and cultural background in the Estonian public sector. What do you think – should their number be higher?

I would say it is still up to the state authorities. Of course, if we look at the Western world, it is already common for people from other linguistic and cultural backgrounds to be represented in government sectors there. This diversifies the public sector and gives everyone a chance to contribute to the future of the country they live in.

Would you recommend the work experience programme to your friends?

I highly recommend it. It certainly opens the first door to the Estonian public sector, but even if you do not see yourself working in the public sector in the future, I would still recommend it – if only for the excellent language practice, which is really, really useful.

Is there anything else you would like to add at the end?

Do not be afraid to speak Estonian! If you make mistakes, you will make mistakes and you will be corrected, but be brave and challenge yourself.


Katrin Maiste, Head of Labour Market Services and Dmitrii’s supervisor during the work experience programme

In autumn 2023, a dozen active, motivated students with excellent Estonian language skills participated in the work experience programme of the Integration Foundation and found a traineeship in a public institution. The aim of the programme is to encourage young people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds to take an interest in working in the Estonian public sector, and thereby make our public sector more diverse. We hope that the programme fulfils its purpose and that today’s trainees will become tomorrow’s new colleagues. To make sure this happens, I invite everyone to volunteer as a supervisor for our programme. Dmitrii and I met a few times in the office, but mostly held regular online meetings, as I work in Tallinn and Dmitrii studies in Narva. What I like about Dmitrii is his hard work, great interest in the Estonian language, and sense of duty. For example, when preparing the feedback form, we discussed the use of a few expressions that are understood in one way by an Estonian but differently by a learner with another native language – moments like that develop the supervisor, as well. It is also tremendously good to discuss with Dmitrii, an expert on the target group, about how to appeal to students and what would bring them to the work experience programme.