My name is Eveli; I work as Head of International Marketing at the University of Tartu and lead a team of international marketing specialists. We recruit international students to the university’s international bachelor’s and master’s programmes. I’ve often been told that we have dream jobs, because we get to travel very often. I’ve been on 34 business trips abroad during the past 6 years with a total duration of 206 days. The longest trip was to China for 17 days and the shortest ones have been to Latvia for just a day.
While travelling sounds like a lot of fun, we often do not see more than a fair centre, hotel, and airport. We always try to have at least some time to look around, but that does not always happen. Once we visited the US for 10 days and only had half an hour to look around in Washington (the total amount of sightseeing during the entire trip!). Luckily we had a car, so we drove quickly to each monument and the White House, where we spent a total of 5 minutes. Sounds fun, right?
One of our latest adventures was to Kazakhstan and Kyrgysztan. I had been to Astana before for another fair 3 years ago, but this time we also visited Almaty, Shmykent, and Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. We usually go to fairs alone to save money, but since these were new markets, we went together with my colleague Katya.
Day 1 – flight to Astana, Kazakhstan (27)
The flight is at 20:40, through Moscow. Everything is ordinary, except for the fact that the airline serves us lamb at 1:30 am. The golden rule of these trips is that when they give you (free) food, you take it, because you never know when your next meal will come. I eat a bit, even though it’s very weird to have dinner that late. We arrive at 6 am in Astana.
Flight count: 2
Day 2 – Astana, Kazakhstan (28)
Do you know what the best feeling is when it comes to travelling? Somebody waiting for you at the airport with a car! The fair organiser offers this service and we decide always to pre-order a taxi from now on.
We make it to the hotel by 4 am Estonian time (+4 KAZ time) and the first “great” surprise is that the hotel is on the second floor. There’s no lift or help. My first bag is 23 kg, the second one 10 kg. The second great surprise is that our room is on the second floor of the hotel – without a lift. I make a mental note that the next time we book a hotel, we have to check the location of the entrance and the availability of lifts.
We wake up at 3 pm, with no clue about the date or time. I grab food from a nearby mall and go back to the hotel, count the brochures for the fair tomorrow, and climb back into bed.
Flight count: 2
Day 3 – Astana, Kazakhstan (29)
The first fair is always the most exciting one. We have never been to this organiser’s fairs before, so the first fair decides the fate of the others, too. Luckily, it’s very good. There are a lot of potential master’s students (the main target of the university is master’s students) and there’s not a second when I don’t speak to a potential student. The biggest surprise is that I have a presentation which nobody notified me of before. I freak out for a second, but since I am able to do these presentations in my sleep, I quickly prepare one.
All of the fairs are quite short, only 4 hours, but it’s enough to make you extremely tired if you speak for 4 hours straight. I absolutely hate long fairs which are usually not that busy, and then you just stare at the ceiling. A suggestion: if you visit a fair, please come as early as possible. We are human, too, and if we have been there for hours, we are tired and don’t really have the strength to give you the best service.
The feeling after the first fair is great, and we grab a dinner and go straight to the airport. One thing that I noticed about Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is that the level of service is very poor. Nobody welcomes you, smiles, or really talks to you. People say that the service level in Estonia is bad, but now I appreciate it a lot more.
Flight count: 3
Day 4 – Almaty, Kazakhstan (30)
Another day, another fair. The hotel does not serve coffee, so we are both extremely sleepy and irritated, but when we arrive at the fair centre (a fancy hotel again), the most amazing thing happens. There’s a Starbucks right next to it offering coffees for 2-for-1. For the first time ever, they manage to write my name without any mistakes on the cup. A great start to the day 😊
The fair is good, too. A lot of people. We quickly run out of brochures again (we brought a total 43 kg of brochures for 4 fairs!) and talk-talk-talk. I have another presentation which is better this time, because now I actually know that I will have one, so I am mentally prepared. We assume I will have one in each city.
After the fair, we drop our things off at the hotel, grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant, and run to see at least something in Almaty (it’s around 8 pm by now). We go to their main square, but it’s dark and it’s surprisingly small, so we are a bit disappointed and head back to the hotel where we are greeted by a cockroach. Katya swears she will not sleep tonight.
Flight count: 3
To be continued…