Short list of main impressions
Why did I decide to go to Tartu? I can say – I did not decide it, but maybe fate decided it instead of me. Once I was sitting on the lecture at my former university when the Dean came into the class to make the announcement: “Today is the last day of applying for those who want to go to Estonia for spring semester”. Apparently, there was nobody willing to go there that even the Dean himself was needed to invite at least somebody. I like traveling and different kind of untested adventurous so I started to persuade my group mates: “Come on, let’s do it together! It has to be fun and very interesting!” But their common reaction was: “What? Estonia? Nah, I will be killed there”. Well, this idea had no success among my friends so I hurried up to collect all the necessary documents alone.
After all there were eight people who were taking part in the competition and only five of them could go for the exchange period. Surely I was not ready for that competition. The committee asked me with such questions like, for example: “What could you tell us about banking in the Baltic region in the beginning of 2000?” I answered frankly: “I know nothing about it”. And, well, to be honest with myself, I did know nothing about Estonia overall. But, eventually, I was lucky, have no idea why, but the committee chose me. Even if they did not I think I wouldn’t be disappointed because this competition was quite accidental for me. And I couldn’t imagine at the moment of announcing the results that my life just changed.
I am from Russia and my hometown is Voronezh. I used to explain its location to foreigners as “…it is about five hundred kilometres from Moscow to south, and it’s quite close to the border with Ukraine”. So I am from central Russia and I could say that summers there are hot and winters are cold (approximately +22 in July and -7 in February according to Wikipedia). But I faced Estonian climate for first time in February and I couldn’t imagine how cold it can be.
My first big impression on the way from my hometown to Tartu happened in Saint Petersburg when my friend and me decided to buy a bottled juice. My friend opened it on the street. A small drop just started to fall down as it was immediately frozen in the air. It is obvious how cold it was and which weather was waiting for me in the neighboring Estonia. But the cold weather is nothing compared to the impression about whole Tartu life.
The next important step for me was when upon arrival I realized that I don’t really speak English and I don’t understand what people say, especially native speakers (to be honest, I do not understand some of them so far). It took me about a month to get used to the different accents and to start speaking a little bit, and not to be ashamed of that. So I really appreciate the international environment in the dorm and studying in English gave me the opportunity to improve my English skills a lot.
The next substantial thing, which is worth mentioning, is the social life. If you come to Tartu as an exchange or Erasmus student – you will never be the same person after returning home. I don’t even have any proper words to describe this inner feeling, but the perception of different life events, personal values, attitude to people and things take the other direction. I could say – even better direction than it was before. And all that comes from the rich experience of communication with people from all over the world. You face so many personalities, cultures, you learn to survive in multinational surrounding, to understand people’s behavior, and you create your own stereotypes about different nations (most often than not, it will be the opposite that you knew about them before personal interaction). So in Tartu you are never lost, you can never be alone, and you can never stay bored. As we like to remind my Russian friends who studied here before: in Tartu you never look for the evening plans, every evening plan finds you themselves.
These were just a few of my main impressions about Tartu and I will definitely write about others in the nearest future.