If you ask me why did I choose University of Tartu, honestly speaking – I have no idea. I am an impulsive person and I do these decisions without thinking too much. This question still comes up rather often and I have to say something.
I moved here without any expectations over two years ago. I didn’t know anyone who was studying or had studied in Tartu so I really did not have any expectations. The only thing I knew was that it is something new and different.
Now it is funny to notice how the answer to that classical question gets longer and wider every year. The longer I live here, the more I’ve started to like this question, because I have got one kick ass answer to it over time.
First of all, my degree was really a surprise to me. I signed up for an international program, but I honestly thought that “international” is basically a degree in English language but with people from Estonia and Finland. There are people from 9 different countries in my class and there are only 14 of us. By working with these people I have got lots of knowledge about different countries, cultures and most importantly – the work cultures. This is going to be a huge advantage in the future.
Secondly, Estonia is a small country and Tartu – a small city. I like to think that this is the reason for the interesting university culture. Even though University of Tartu is one of the biggest in Northern Europe, the way they handle things in the university is so personal. I am talking about all the administrative stuff. There is this small town mindset involved and it is great. You can walk to the office of the head of your faculty and have a chat with him/her and they treat you like people in small town would treat their neighbor. You really get to participate and give your own ideas and if there is some problem you don’t get stuck in the system, which happens so many times in bigger Universities.
Then there is of course the incredible range of different nationalities in the city. There is close to 1000 international students living in Tartu every year, and from about 18 000 students it is a quite big share in a city this small. That is what makes it so interesting. If you put all these people coming from different places around the world in the super small center of the Tartu town, only crazy but good things can happen. Think about it, if you choose such a random place as Tartu you have to be really open minded and fearless. I believe we all share this same mindset and that is what makes is great. City filled with positive, strong characters, ready to get new experiences and this famous “once in a life time” experience. Sometimes… well, most of the times stuff gets out of hands and these times make the best memories.
Another positive thing about the fact that basically everybody goes to same bars and clubs within radius of 2 km is that the representatives of different fields of sciences meet. Almost every degree that you can think of is represented here in the university of Tartu and most of the times also in the Ruutli Street. Conversations and arguments are so fertile and interesting. Economist and Environmental scientist arguing about business ethics and then these famous semiotic students (they are everywhere) giving their deeper meaning to every word, you just got to love these situations. These arguments usually lead to more complete and wide conclusion of the subject and this is only a good thing.
You may think that this picture of people riding camels is irrelevant for this topic of this text, but it is more relevant than anything. People from four different countries riding camels together in Africa a year later they met in Tartu is exactly what this city is about. Life long friendships.
Overall my life in Tartu has given me so many amazing things that I would make the same decision about studying here in a heartbeat. Life long friendships all around the world will always stay with me, and this place made it possible. Best thing about this city is that even though it is small and dark sometimes, it is always fresh and filled with new interesting people who share the open minded attitude, and if they don’t, definitely after Tartu they do.