Hello there! I’m Lena, and I am from Kiev, Ukraine. I would like to share my experience of living and studying in Tartu – this small picturesque city with a strong student spirit! Therefore, in this post I will share something personal with those who want to find themselves in Tartu.
My story is simple – I’ve been in a long-distance relationship with Tartu for a long time before I even saw it. Having been told about these narrow streets and cozy cafes, traditions and atmosphere for months, I had nothing to do but to decide to explore it myself. Last spring, while continuing working, I started the application process for the University of Tartu. I even travelled to Estonia to apply, to literally bring my documents here – I was this inspired.
You can imagine my anxiety and excitement when I opened the mailbox and saw the admission letter, which also told about the MFA scholarship that I was given for my studies. “Tartu welcomes you”, was written there and this phrase became the motto for the rest of my summer. I was overwhelmed with my plans for the autumn and was full of determination to kick it off the best way I can. 🙂
People often asked me this obvious question: “Why Estonia?”. I think, the answer is in what I have found in Tartu and what Tartu has helped me to find in myself. This city was a starting point of my journey to begin with. I was lucky to get a sweet and friendly Latvian couple as my neighbors at the dormitory of the University of Tartu, and after few months they invited me to explore Riga and celebrate the Latvian Independence Day like a local! For those who are really afraid of living in a dormitory and sharing the space with new people – you might really lose something incredible in your life. 🙂 So, that was the first lesson I learned – people are the ones who really can make your life different and better, in one way or another, so you better keep yourself open-minded and be a social person.
Thus, Tartu opened the door for my wild traveling dreams and I’m afraid to say this, but the first semester was spent not that much on studies. Instead of being up late with my eyes in books and the lectures, I was visiting Tallinn, Riga, Stockholm, Latvian castles and the small cities of Estonia. It made my autumn, alongside with few other things, such as walking on the streets at nights, running on foggy evenings outside of the city, going to the capital on weekends and discovering the city through my photo camera. When I think of the last autumn, it gives me a warm feeling of being home, being comfortable and full of small tiny sweet things that all in all do our life special.
Another thing I would like to share about Tartu, is that feeling when you find yourself to be a different person, not the one you used to be yesterday and some time ago. You catch up with the people and the mood here, and then you discover yourself doing things you never expected of you to do. In my case it was the Tartu autumn marathon, which I decided to run. Note that I never really jogged much before my moving to Tartu and it was a real challenge for me to run a marathon at that moment.
Nevertheless, it was a decision that I made and it turned to be one of the best moments of my life, when I crossed the finish line and heard the people applauding to all who didn’t give up till the end. This warm sunny autumn day, when hundreds of people were running shoulder to shoulder, and children smiling to us, people cheering us up – all these things will stay in my memories of Tartu. Another thing I learnt from here – you have to change yourself constantly, discover yourself and find something new, unexpected, believe in yourself and be brave enough to face the challenges. This is what also makes your life valuable and meaningful.
Now the spring is approaching, and Tartu is getting more and more beautiful with the sunlight. I am eagerly awaiting the spring and summer, with the new things to learn, student days, new trips, new people and for sure, holidays!