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Hello there! My name is Tshinar-Kristi Shahmardan, and my journey into the world of semiotics has been as unexpected as it has been fascinating. 

My academic journey began in the chaos of the COVID pandemic. Having finished high school during such uncertain times, I plunged into university life, which was as unconventional as the era itself. I stumbled upon semiotics while exploring degree options and it caught my attention because it was the only field I hadn’t heard of. After some investigation, I decided to apply and was thrilled to be accepted. There has been no turning back ever since.

Growing up surrounded by art and artists, I naturally gravitated towards becoming an artist myself. However, it’s not just about creating art; my passion for writing and research finds its perfect harmony in the field of semiotics.

My background is quite diverse. I am half Estonian and half Azerbaijani, and I spent my childhood in Finland before moving to Estonia for my studies. This unconventional background has endowed me with significant intercultural competencies that I utilize in my daily life.

Currently, for my master’s thesis, I’m delving into a topic very close to my heart – the Estonian diaspora youth. This subject is not just an academic pursuit for me; it’s a reflection of my own journey as a diaspora Estonian. In this, I embark not just on a research project, but on a journey of self-discovery and a deeper understanding of my roots and identity. This research is especially pertinent in the current discourse surrounding Estonian immigration and the Estonian diaspora community.

My internship journey at the Hortus Semioticus blog in the Tartu University Department of Semiotics started on October 30th, under the supervision of Oscar Miyamoto. I discovered this opportunity through an intriguing email, which perfectly aligned with my academic and professional aspirations. The allure of exploring semiotics within a digital framework was compelling. So, I took the steps to pursue it, and to be quite honest, the online compatibility was one of the biggest reasons behind choosing this internship. This is because I am a strong advocate of online work and I believe that digital humanities should find broader application in semiotics. Applying semiotics in digital humanities opens new perspectives and methods for understanding cultural and social phenomena. Of course, online work offers flexibility and access to a broader spectrum of resources and collaboration opportunities, which are aspects I find crucial. 

To start, I would have to say that my understanding of career opportunities related to my field, semiotics, is quite limited. So, to begin with, the goal was to transform theoretical knowledge into practical proficiency, particularly in the application of semiotics and understanding its professional implications. Having studied semiotics for my bachelor’s degree, I have a general theoretical foundation and a comprehensive understanding of its basic principles, but I have not had the chance to apply them in practice yet.

My strengths include versatile use of my field knowledge and frequent application of learned subjects in various situations. I also believe that time management is one of my stronger skills, along with being sociable and hardworking. These are the skills that I expected to utilize during my internship. However, going into the internship, I was afraid that I would have to face one of my dire weaknesses: taking on more tasks than I can comfortably manage. I dream big and often think I can handle everything by myself, but this sometimes results in difficulty fulfilling all the responsibilities I have taken on. I needed to learn to assess my capabilities more realistically and ask for help when necessary, without feeling it as a weakness. This is something I got to practice during my time in the internship. 

The internship provided a rich variety of tasks, ranging from managing a webpage or a blog (that you are currently reading this on) to managing communications between the team and cooperating individuals. The most difficult part of this for me was not the newish skills I had to polish up for managing the web page but the ability to adapt to the constantly changing schedule. Each task was, of course, connected to semiotics, even if doing so indirectly. Being in the digital presence of Tartu University’s Semiotics Department’s extended semiosphere, each task for the department’s blog became inherently connected to it. 

This experience taught me how to react quickly and find solutions when the situation demands it. A notable lesson for me was when a scheduled post, which was originally supposed to be written by someone else, or rather a group of somebodies, ended up docking at my feet. I saw it as a positive as this gave me a great opportunity to share my work, even though it was not anything connected to my specific interests in the study of semiotics. 

Though there were quite a few situations where I felt like taking on more responsibilities, I restrained myself from that choice, and I am glad that I did. It was a great practice of harnessing my weakness and putting my limit of capabilities to the front, as well as balancing it with the needs of the rest of the crew. 

This experience allowed me to use my professional knowledge in the workplace, contributing to the creation of creative content and inspiring the team. Speaking of which, the best part of this experience was the wonderful people I got to work with over the last four weeks. The Hortus Semioticus blog’s team could not have been more understanding, cooperative, and supportive. 

This internship was not merely an academic pursuit but a gateway to future professional endeavors and collaborations. It expanded my network, deepened my understanding of practical semiotics, and prepared me for continued involvement in the field. The plans for my continued collaboration with the blog have been confirmed, and I am happy to be a part of the team for a bit longer. The experience has been more than pleasant, and I encourage any student from the department to consider this opportunity for their internship. 

During this internship, I had the opportunity to be part of a project that created and developed an online environment acting as an extension of the semiosphere of the University of Tartu’s Semiotics Department. This initiative contributes to connecting semiotic enthusiasts worldwide, which is significant given the relatively small size of the semiotic community. 

I particularly noticed the struggle of first-year bachelor students who find it challenging to understand or connect with the field and its community, a pattern that somewhat continued in my master’s studies. Hence, I believe it is crucial for the blog to continue functioning at its fullest extent, striving to reach students and echo the ideas of those who have found their footing in this field. Additionally, it seems that few people outside the semiotics field are aware of its existence. Despite its overwhelming approachability to various subjects of interest, semiotics remains somewhat overlooked and forgotten, often left as an afterthought in discussions about philosophy, anthropology, literature studies, and the like. It is difficult for me to understand why such a field, which helps humanity explain the world around us and various phenomena (something that has always intrigued humanity and is garnering increasing interest), is yet overlooked.
This internship provided me with a valuable opportunity to work in a small-scale yet globally reaching context, building bridges between different people and perspectives. My work on the blog and in popularizing semiotics has helped me contribute to raising awareness of the field. I look forward to continuing to work towards this goal.

Photo created by author by using AI tool DALL-E.

Date: 07.12.2023

Time: 11.02

Instructions given: Create a visual representation that combines the concept of academic studies with the iconic University of Tartu.

hortus semioticus

Hortus Semioticus is a peer reviewed online journal of semiotics featuring new generation of semiotic researchers.

Hortus Semioticus on eelretsenseeritav semiootika võrguajakiri, mis on pühendatud uue põlvkonna semiootilistele uurimustele.


Our blog is a digital resource where everyone passionate about semiotics can share their knowledge, questions and experience on stuff that matters.

Meie blogi on koht, kus semiootikahuvilised saavad vahendada mõtteid ja infot kõigest, mis loeb.