Student Experience: University of Tartu in Estonia

One of the great things about studying abroad through OSU is that you have so many options. On the flip side, all the options sometimes makes it difficult to narrow down your choice to one… Read why Nick chose to study in Estonia and why other OSU students should also!

Nick's Estonia PictureMajor: Political Science
Minor: Russian Language & Literature, International Studies, Geography
Location: Tartu, Estonia
Program: Reciprocal Exchange

Why did you choose to study at the University of Tartu?

To be honest, it was incredibly random. Without going into details, UT stood out at the conclusions of a SWOT analysis of other places I compared in Central & Eastern Europe. It is a great mix of modern, historic, affordable, comfortable, with an excellent academic program to compliment its natural and urban beauty.

What was the university like? And Tartu as a city?

I can’t emphasize enough how cool the university’s history was. During the winter, there was a vivid social scene, but a lot of studying going on due to the harsh winters. I’d never seen so much snow before. Once it melted and summer arrived, I had never seen such phosphorescent green grass and blue skies. Every activity was moved outdoors, including studying, socializing, eating, and so on. Tartu still has a few old Soviet scars, but by and large, it looks and feels just like a German or Swedish city. Just a lot cheaper.

What was a typical day for you when studied in Estonia?

I would wake up and walk to class through a modern district, a park, across the river, through the historic town square, and up the hill. Not as long of a walk as that sounds. My classes were in English, and all really interesting. Then I’d find some friends around my faculty and go grab the lunch special somewhere and eat out on the square. Then I might study or attend an event later that day. I also flew to the Netherlands once a month and squeezed several other trips in—I was practically always on the move. I had a lot of friends in Tallinn, which was an hour and a half away. Estonians are easier to befriend than their reputation.

Describe your academic experience abroad.

I was taking courses on Russian language, E.U.-Russia relations, and European sociology. My professors taught from a very interesting perspective, especially regarding the Soviet Union. My professors had diverse biases also, ranging from being anti-Moscow to a level of acceptance about the past. I also learned a vastly different point of view regarding nationalism and state-building. We had several great academic events, including an official state visit of the Polish president, and an in-class visit from a Hungarian minister. If you want to understand what happened in foreign relations after 1991, Tartu is the place to go.

Where did you live?

I lived in a really cool modern building that housed international students at 22 Raatuse Street. It was an 8 minute walk across the river from the university and even shorter walking distance to anything you would need. My rent for my “own room” was about $200 / month. There were several other study abroad students who ventured out on their own and found really cool loft spaces around town for pretty cheap, as well. If you’re going for just one semester you won’t have the flexibility to go off on your own, though, because you’ll want to arrange housing in-person if you’re going “off campus.”

What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?

Tartu attracts a lot of students from Germany and other European nations, more than the U.S., because Estonia is very hot right now in Europe. I appreciated being able to get away from American-ness and have a fairly immersive European experience that was analogous to what you’d also have in the Czech Republic. I’ll confess that the town McDonald’s had about a once-monthly place in my dinner rotation, but I was just really able to immerse myself in the modern-day Eastern European experience. At the time I was focusing a lot of my academic career on Russia, and it brought me closer to that. What I didn’t expect was that I’d leave, instead, wanting to focus my career on beautiful cities.

Why should OSU students study at the University of Tartu in Estonia?

You should go because it’s different. You will grow more mature by venturing off the beaten path of usual study abroad destinations, and you’ll get to see such an underrated part of the world that few get to see. You can always go to France. It’s cheap, the city is beautiful, the people are attractive, and it’s a very good university. You’ll feel like you’re in France and spend a third of what you would there. Tallinn, the capital, has pretty good, thrifty access to almost anywhere in Europe you’d want to travel to. If you do go, my advice is to seriously consider going during the Fall semester, or bring a good winter coat!

Written by: Nick Emenhiser

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