I have to admit that my choice to do a masters in Amsterdam was partly accidental and largely emotional (of course now, post factum, it seems like it was meant to happen and could not be otherwise). At the time I made this decision I was living in my home town Tallinn, population 425,249, located somewhere between Finland and Russia. Most of my days I spent juggling with numbers in Excel and building colorful graphs about nothing in particular. To spice up the usual office routine of December 2008, my colleagues and me went on a three day trip to Amsterdam. I remember standing in front of the huge glass window at the top floor of the Openbare Bibliotheek, gazing at the old city spreading under and at the little red light on the Amstel building on the left and thinking “my god does this city feels great!”. Then there was a slightly-under-the-substance night ride along the canals on the back of a bike. As soon as we returned to Estonia, I marked the day I was to quit my job in the calendar and applied to the Film Studies MA Program.
Five months later I entered a room on the first floor of the Media Studies building at Turfdraagsterpad 9 to meet my course mates. Soon enough some of these dozen young men and women from all over Europe became my close friends, and certainly all of them were great companions and inspiring partners in conversation. Contrary to what you might expect from the name of the Film Studies program, we did not talk much about film genres, neither film history. Instead, the focus was on the ontology of film as artistic medium, on different ways to think about cinema and on different ways that cinema can think and represent us and our relationships with the world around us.
Most of the work happened during seminars. For someone who studied humanities in the classic academic environment of Estonia, still largely influenced by the pedagogic traditions of Russia, where a professor occupies a position of power and authority, the format of the seminars was a breeze of fresh air. It was a place to speak with our professors as equal, to share our thoughts and ideas in a very relaxed and creative atmosphere. It was also within the walls of the department of Media that I discovered a new academic hobby of mine, neuroscience, which later laid the foundation for my master thesis and the subsequent direction of my scientific research. I am very grateful to Catherine Lord, whose passionate lectures made me realize the direction I’d like to proceed with. I am indebted to Patricia Pisters, whom, unfortunately I only met briefly but whose work provided so much inspiration and guidance for my thesis. And, of course, to my wonderful supervisor Alexandra Schneider for standing by me and providing feedback when I needed it the most!
After the graduation I stayed in Amsterdam for three more years. In the end, how can you leave the city where you are absolutely free to do whatever you desire, and be whoever you feel like being. Amsterdam will always bring you together with the people who will share your obsessions and will gladly participate in bringing to life the craziest ideas. One of these ideas was a monthly magazine about independent cinema that we made together with a group of UvA students. In between endless fights with the co-editor about the titles of the articles and who’s turn it was to write the editorial, we organized a bunch of small scale festivals and film related events. In other words, we had fun. Right now I spent most of my time in another great city of Europe, Barcelona, where I am teaching English and occasionally giving courses on semiotics to researches from hard science. Whenever I look back at the years I spent in Amsterdam (which, I have to admit, happens quite often), it is with great warmth and a little bit of nostalgia… these were so far the boldest, most reckless and inspiring years of my life.