As you might already know from my first blog post, I am a full time master’s student at the University of Tartu and since I come from a relatively big city, I would like to share with you my wonderful experience of being a student in a small town.
My home town, where I was born and grew up is Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Despite its population, which is just 1, 1 million people, in comparison to Tartu with dwellers of approximately ten times less, it’s still a big city. As I joke sometimes, whole of Estonia lives in just Tbilisi 🙂 So, for me, it was something new and exciting to end up in the town, which is filled up with a spirit of university. Below I would like to show you what makes studying in Tartu so special and why small university towns are better places for studying rather than big cities.
I completed my bachelor’s degree back in Tbilisi which means that I have experienced four years of being a student in the big city. Based on that, I can definitely say that it’s not the best way to feel a real student life.
Why is it so?
In Tartu most of the dormitories are just five-ten minutes’ walk from the University buildings. You don’t really need to wake up early, get ready, take a bus, which in the case of Tbilisi would be full of people going to work, or pupils with huge backpacks (by the time you get to the lecture, you would already feel like grumpy old man, with all the morning enthusiasm gone). In opposite, you feel relaxed in Tartu with your music playing in your headphones while you take a walk to the University. Cross the park, famous Tartu Bridge, with the stories we all know about 🙂 and you are already there! Here I should mention another interesting peculiarity of the University of Tartu. All the lectures start fifteen minutes later and not on the sharp hour, e.g. at 10:15, 14:15, 16:15, etc. It seems to me, that in the beginning it really works and you are never late, but once you get used to it, then you can’t resist a temptation of spending another fifteen minutes under your warm blanket, especially when it’s cold and dull outside. This feeling is so nice, but we got a bit carried away, let’s go back to the advantages of studying in a small town.
First lecture is over and you have half an hour break until the second one starts. Since almost all of the buildings of the University are in the city center, you can find nice and cozy café or cafeteria to have a lunch. But if you are up to more intellectual way of enjoying your break, then University library is just ten minutes’ walk from the main building (it takes not more than five minutes though with my speed of walking) 🙂 However, you can always enjoy sunlight in one of the parks when it’s sunny. Tartu is full of peaceful squares that make this town unbelievably beautiful. It’s specifically gorgeous when everything gets green and bloom, or when autumn comes and whole town turns into the mix of yellow, red and brown. I advise everyone to take a walk somewhere in the mid of October around the areas close to railway station, Riia street or beer factory. Trust me, after that experience it will start making sense to you why all the poets devoted so much of their works to this season of the year. But, I got carried away again.
Tartu is not only about studying. This is a town, where you feel a special attitude toward students everywhere you go. You get price discounts in various restaurants, pizzerias and even at hairdressers just because you are a student. There is no week without at least one big event organized for the students.
And now, about the most exciting and important part of student life – having fun. Why small town like Tartu is better than a big city to have fun? Well, yes, there might be less number of pubs, clubs or places to party, but it’s not necessary the worst thing. You wonder why? In the cities like Tbilisi you have to arrange everything beforehand and get your small circle of friends partying, where you always worry about the time. In the case of my home town, public transport stops working after midnight, unless you are willing to pay for taxi, you have to go home early. While in Tartu, you don’t really need to plan everything beforehand. You can just go alone on Rüütli street and meet all of your friends, classmates, roommate, or just people whom you see entering elevator in the dorm every morning. Even if you don’t know any of them, after a friendly chat, you might end up partying with dozens of Estonians. Nowhere else, but only in small towns like Tartu, you can meet your lecturer in a pub and have a drink with him/her.
To sum up what I am trying to say, you can only feel you are a student in a big city when you attend lectures, join particular gatherings or party once in a while. Whereas in small towns like Tartu, your entire daily routine is connected to the university and student life and this is just amazing!