I haven’t posted anything in this blog since October and virtually a whole autumn semester has passed since then. What have I faced during these months in Estonia and elsewhere? Honestly speaking, I have had three emotionally significant periods.
First was the exam period. Unlike the study experience in my former university, Voronezh State University, where I studied for five years, the study system in the University of Tartu was completely different and therefore challenging for me. The most important difference turned out to be the final assessment after the completion of a course.
In Russia we used to pass the exams a following way: the professor, some time before the exam period, gives us the list of topics (which tend to be extremely broad), and we have to do all the accessible readings on them. Usually we have two or three days between every exam. During these few days we read and read and read. On the exam day we come to the class. The professor has several sheets of paper in front of him turned upside down. Every student has to choose a random blank page, and after they turn it, they see two or three questions. As a rule, these questions are narrower than the topics given for preparation. The student then has 15-20 minutes to write down everything that they have on their mind about the theme. After that, they go to the professor and explain everything that they have written and any additional thoughts by word of mouth. After all is said and done, the professor asks the student additional questions related to the topic. To make it tricky and more problematic, professors usually like to ask whatever questions they want, regardless of topic. After all of that, the student goes home happy or disappointed about their final grade. That is how it is usually done in Russia.
In Estonia I have been faced with a bit of a different system. This system is papers. The challenging fact for me is I have to write down my thoughts, I have to put them in order, and I have to learn how to think critically! Previously I did it infrequently: when I wrote my course papers just about four of five times during my studies, plus when I wrote my Bachelor’s thesis. Compared with these few papers, I passed tons of oral exams so I am better at that.
Why have I called this paper/exam period emotionally significant? Because I had no idea how to manage my time for preparation, how much time it takes to write just a one page in English, which is not my mother tongue, how much it will take to write 12 needed pages, even the requirements for the font size and references was different compared with what was I used to. All that just made me mad!
Despite all of those difficulties, I survived, and now I have started the new semester with renewed vigour. To be honest, I survived not with the results I wanted to, in Russia I had better results of my studies. I will not hide the fact that I got two D’s just in the first semester, which is almost equal to the number of D’s in my five previous years of studies. I may sound like a real nerd (even the fact that I post it in the blog trying to show the breach of justice to the whole world is nerdy), but it was very disappointing for me. Nevertheless, it was a good learning experience and I really hope that the new semester will be more successful for me.
The second important part of the previous semester is leaving of my friends who stayed here only for one semester. I would say it was not the first time. I have already been on exchange here in Tartu, but then it was me who left (although apparently, not forever). However, now it is the other way around: I stay, and others leave. Due to the peculiarities of my nature, I can be really close and open-minded only with those who share my values and, especially, my mother tongue. As they say, “Language determines thought”. So my close friends, those who have a similar understanding of being, finished their exchange period here and left to return to Voronezh (yes, even the fact that we are from the same place is significant for me). It does not mean we will not keep in touch or meet anymore. It just means that I have to give up on the habit of having dinner together, hanging out together, or even gossiping about everything. I am sure nice, new people will come to my life, but also I am a bit afraid of having the same experiences over and over again: I stay, they leave. That said, the good point here is the existence of Facebook,which will never let us be too far away.
I am coming here to the third, more rainbow-coloured, part of the previous semester. This part is traveling. I love traveling a lot. I can’t even say what I love more: discovering new cultures, surrounding myself with new adventures, flying, or just simply fussing before the trip. The autumn semester was quite fruitful for me in that sense. I went to five different European countries and seven different cities in total. Some of them I had visited previously, such as Riga or Milan, but some places, like Savukoski in Lapland, Chambery, Grenoble, Lyon in France, and Geneva in Switzerland were the real discovery for me. I can’t even decide what I liked the most during my travels because every one of these places was so unique. I can write just a few words about each of them. Lapland was super cold when it was pretty warm in Estonia, but having proper clothes helped me to enjoy the most beautiful sky I have ever seen before. Chambery is a small but very nice French town. Coincidentally, it was nice that Pauline, our Student Ambassador from France, knows it so well and I could use her recommendations about where to go and what to see. Grenoble is, undoubtedly, the capital of Alps. Mont Blanc was so close from there! Lyon is so beautiful, I regret that I stayed there for just two days, it is definitely worth visiting one more time. Geneva with its famous fountain, flower clock, and Lake Geneva is avery special place that everyone has to visit at least once in their lives.
I would say that the autumn semester was not the most productive for me in the academic sense but it was certainly one of the best times in my life in terms of self-fulfilment.