Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

Overvecht reminds me of Estonia

Foto: Bas van Setten

“I want to know what’s going on in the world and make it a better place”, says the Estonian Tiina Rootamm with conviction. She’s sitting in the canteen of the University library on Drift. Tiina has come to Utrecht to learn more about human rights, a subject rarely touched upon at universities in her own country. She is very impressed by the international character of Utrecht University. “It’s definitely helped me to broaden my horizons. If you never venture outside the same group of people, you don’t get the chance to change your perspective.”

She often visits the University library. “The library in the city centre is amazing. Not only because it’s a great library, but also because it’s open until 10.30 in the evening, 7 days a week.” Things are a bit different at the University of Tartu, which Tiina has swapped for Utrecht for 6 months as part of her Erasmus+ programme.

Tiina has always been interested in human rights and the world stage. The history of Estonia and Europe are popular discussion subjects in her family. As she explains, their discussions largely revolve around the fact that Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union for fifty years. “Until 1991, we were part of the Soviet Union and unable to speak freely as Estonians.” Tiina says that the younger generation pays little attention to the country’s history, “although they all understand the difference between living in freedom and living under oppression.”

Bahá’í faith

Here in Utrecht, Tiina lives in a flat in Overvecht. “I love it. It reminds me of Estonia – all these flats and green spaces in between”, she laughs. She’s particularly taken with the diversity of the population. “You don’t see that in Estonia. We’re very behind in a lot of ways, including immigration. In Estonia, I know one Muslim”, she exclaims. She enjoys shopping at the Turkish and Moroccan shops in Overvecht, where she buys her fruit and vegetables.

She is an active member of the Bahá’í community. “This is a relatively young faith, which has ‘only’ been around for two hundred years. It’s about the unity of mankind, and encouraging people to make the world a better place”, Tiina explains. “We don’t meet in a church, but in a community centre or people’s homes.”

Tiina heard in Estonia that Utrecht had an active Bahá’í community. This, along with the degree programme in human rights, was an extra reason for choosing the city. It enabled her to meet new people quickly once she’d arrived. “People don’t tend to talk to their neighbours much, but Bahá’í is a connecting factor. I’ve met all kinds of people in Utrecht.”

On 22 October, the Bahá’í faith is celebrating the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the faith. The celebrations will take place in the Academy building on Domplein. Everyone is welcome. This open nature is typical of Utrecht, says Tiina. “Everyone is so friendly, active and hard-working. I love the biking culture too, it makes the city feel so energetic. Everyone is moving forwards – literally! The high quality of education here is something to be proud of too. Good education can only benefit society as a whole.”

Name: Tiina Rootamm
Place of birth: Tallinn, Estonia
Date of birth: 30 October 1988
Motto: ‘Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you’

Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.

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Article by Annabel van Heesbeen