I am sure, this is what comes to the mind of every University of Tartu international student when the stay in Tartu is about to end. Whether it is a summer school, an exchange semester or, in my case, two years as a student in Tartu, that bittersweet thought always arrives, where one is as happy as it can be for all the amazing time in this vibrant town, but at the same time, one feels gloomy, because the time to leave is close and the end of the studies is around the corner.
I have done so much: I have been to sauna naked with people I barely know (apparently a normal thing around these lands), I have swam in ice-cold water in a hole on a frozen lake, have walked – apparently illegally – on top of a bridge, and made a stop there to enjoy a beer. I have learned a new language, – and had great misunderstandings with it. I have taken a shower in the fountain at the center of the city, battled in a raft alongside gladiators in the waters of the ‘Mother River’, seen the longest day of my life and the longest night of my life. I have skied (which for a Mexican is quite an achievement!) and have fallen more than ever in my life. I have met lifetime friends, drank a bit too much with them, and laughed even more with them.
Of course, I have also read many books, attended many interesting lectures, I have had the opportunity of going abroad to other countries, to represent my country and Tartu University. I have successfully defended my first thesis, I have failed some exams. I have given a presentation to more than 300 persons, I have overcome fears. I have received friends from abroad in Tartu, I have had my family visiting. I have sang alongside Estonians, and have been to many parties. I have danced, I have hugged and I have kissed. But how to sum up all those days in a few paragraphs? It is not possible, and that is why, my only hope is that my small selection of experiences, will open your curiosity to explore Tartu, and to come see it, live it for yourself!
Passing the final exam, attending the last lecture, submitting the last paper just about the closing deadline, feels just great, and gives me more time to think, to enjoy, and to take the very last moments of my study experience in Tartu and squeeze every drop of juice from them. I remember my amazement of the many forms Tartu takes: in summer, the sun shines, the lakes and rivers have people swimming in their shores and everything is taken outdoors. In winter, a sugar coating covers the city, white powder all over the place, sauna time is very often and Christmas traditions are in place. Even more amazing for me, was autumn, where the streets and walking paths seem to reflect the yellow of the sun because of thousands of leaves fall from the trees right below our feet.
I am about to graduate, but before I do, I will just continue gathering moments, experiences and relive those ones I can. An although most international students move on, perhaps home, perhaps to a new country, some of us are just not quite ready to depart. If I am lucky enough, I will stay in Estonia a bit longer, as a proud University of Tartu alumni, because I want to have more unforgettable moments, meet more unforgettable people, and LIVE more unforgettable TARTU.
Author: Leonardo Ortega, Mexico, EU-Russia Studies