Getting Inspired at the International Summer University

It is a widespread stereotype that summer is a sunny time of rest and joy. Still, there are people who have a constant passion for new knowledge and discoveries. The summer school programmes at the University of Tartu are, no doubt, nice opportunities to dig deeper into a variety of topics that interest you” (Stanislav Mohylnyi, Ukraine).

International Summer University 2016. Photo sent by Sticea Mihaela

UT International Summer University 2016 participants. Photo sent by Sticea Mihaela.

Although a new academic year 2016/2017 has just begun, it is not too late to take a look at what happened at the University of Tartu during the summer.

This summer there were more than 330 students from all over the world taking part of different summer school programmes. This blog post is composed of the impressions of 14 students who were granted a development cooperation scholarship by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to participate in four different International Summer University programmes:

  • Secure e-Governance (in cooperation with Tallinn University of Technology)
  • Social Dimension: Estonian Business Environment and EU-Russian Relations
  • Social Dimension: EU-Russian Relations and Baltic Regional Security
  • Juri Lotman and the Semiotics of Culture

During those two-week-long programmes, students had the chance to work together with university professors; visit governmental institutions as well as IT and technology enterprises; enjoy the cultural programme; study in the cities of Tartu, Tallinn and Pärnu; gain lots of new international friends; and get to know new cultures.

Anastasiia Babash from Ukraine compared getting her acceptance letter to the summer university to the Harry Potter series: “When I received a letter from the University of Tartu that I had been accepted as a student of the ‘Juri Lotman and Semiotics of Culture’ course and also won a scholarship from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, it felt like I finally received my letter from Hogwarts”. Anastasiia believes that a dream summer should consist of exciting adventures, travels all over the world, new meetings, and fresh experiences. International Summer University at the University of Tartu made those dreams come true.

“I feel the necessity to mention that since the first year of my bachelor’s degree I always dreamed about going to the University of Tartu. Since I am not a dreamer, I made a goal to catch every opportunity to go there, and now I am full of positive emotions which are hard to put into words”, said Ana Gagoshvili from Georgia. She described the time in Tartu as a two-week-long dream.

Smbat Hakobyan from Armenia said that he had one of the best experiences in University of Tartu. “Working environment was really nice: city, people, working group, which contains people from various places, we had very multicultural group and this was great.”

The participants seemed to highly enjoy the aspect that summer university is not merely about studying, but also about meeting new people. “The summer university is the most successful way to spend a summer. This is an excellent combination of traveling, studying, hanging out – the impressions of which will last throughout the next year”, said Valeriia Sofishchenko from Ukraine.

Sticea Mihaela from Moldova described, as well, that the desire to fill her summer doing something useful became much-much more. “The vibrant part of Estonia is bound to mesmerise you with everything it has to offer! There is always something to do there. Between lectures, tours, shopping, special events, and living with young people from around the world, students are almost never bored”.

Some UT International Summer University 2016 participants. Photo from Juri Lotman and the Semiotics of Culture Facebook group

UT International Summer University 2016 participants. Photo from Juri Lotman and the Semiotics of Culture Facebook group

Summer school programmes were also very inspirational for the participants. “This programme for me was not just educational, it gave me inspiration and energy to participate more actively in public life and even start working with friends on our own project in the field of e-systems”, said Yevhen Khavrona. Ana added that the summer university provided her with broader approaches to analyse current economic issues from different perspectives. “It will be beneficial not only for my professional and analytical skills, but for my country as well, as Georgians are inspired by Estonia and try to incorporate Estonia’s experience and move forward”.

Stanislav, who participated in the Semiotics summer school also shared his fascination about the courses: Insightful ideas which explain our culture through the theories of signs would fascinate people with any kind of background, especially those who have special interests in humanities. How we perceive the world around us? What is sign? How language influences our thinking and behaviour? What is translation? What is history? Breathtaking questions, arent they?

Giorgi Chapidze from Georgia added that these courses widened his academic horizon and research fields. “I am going to pursue international relations studies with a particular emphasis on Eastern Europe for my master’s degree, and I genuinely believe this summer school is a significant event for my career development”.

Participants gave positive feedback for the summer university’s professors and lecturers as well. Salome Kapanadze from Georgia found that the most valuable thing for her was the personal advice given by the experienced and professional lecturers. “They really made me sure that nowadays it is obligatory to participate in interdisciplinary studies in order to have a successful career. And it is true indeed, that Tartu is one of the best places for students to study.”

 UT International Summer University 2016. Photo from Juri Lotman and the Semiotics of Culture Facebook group

UT International Summer University 2016 paticipants. Photo from Juri Lotman and the Semiotics of Culture Facebook group

“If you are not sure about it yet, here you will understand that it is important to learn something from each person who you meet in your life, as everyone is a unique treasure and you are so afraid to miss a minute of socialising with each of them!” This is how Anna Harus from Ukraine described meeting with other foreign students – an opportunity where you do not want to miss a single second. Anastasiia said that the summer university was a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and understand that all in all we are the same and all our differences only unite us.

Students also shared their impressions of Estonia. “Even though one might think that two weeks spent in two different cities could not be enough to form an impression about a country and some of its very specific aspects, the International Summer University in Secure e-Governance /…/ not only allowed us to understand Estonia as a very hospitable country, but also allowed us to perceive Estonia as a very forward-thinking one”, said Aliaksei Patonia from Belarus.

Sviatoslav Grigorash from Ukraine described the visits to different companies: “Within the whole period of the Summer School, I also visited the companies connected to IT-issues, such as Nortal, Playtech, and e-Governance Academy. There I became acquainted with very hospitable stuff and learned about the specifics of these companies in a very friendly atmosphere.”

Some of the participants were amazed by the advancements Estonia has been able to achieve within the past 25 years. Aliaksei admitted that if he had not been to Estonia himself, he would have never believed that such an extreme cut in expenses and re-organisation of the entire country could be achieved in a nation that started from scratch in the early 1990s.

As a fun fact, students would not also mind working in our start-ups: “Each of us would be really pleased to work there, especially when we found out that they have a sauna and massage cabin”, said Salome.

International students also noticed the patriotism of Estonians. “Even though this nation is not so big, they cherish their patriotic feelings and want to share them with the whole world”, Anna felt during her time in Estonia. “To be honest, I was impressed by how Estonians love their country and how hard they work to be amongst the most developed ones”, she added.

Yevhen even described the time in Estonia as a fairy tale: “Starting with the remarkable cities of Tartu and Tallinn, where it constantly seemed that the medieval knight in armour was about to appear around the corner of each ancient street, and ending with the great people I have met”. Sticea described Tartu as a city that is bathing in the warm colours of its architecture and that is heated by young people’s energy.

Mariam Bibilashvili from Georgia added: “In this short term I tried to explore the culture of Estonia and enjoy the beauty of the country through visiting various museums and historical monuments, trying some traditional food, and getting to know local people.“

International Summer University 2016. Photo sent by Sticea Mihaela

Tartu. Photo sent by Sticea Mihaela

We are delighted to hear that all the students who shared their thoughts with us were more than happy with their international summer university experience. Some of them are soon to join us for their master’s degree studies.

“Two weeks of summer 2016 in Estonia – full of the international environment, fun, new friends, a lot of Wi-Fi and technology, unforgettable emotions, innovations, and amazing lectures will definitely take a huge place in my life as a great memory and a significant part of the future career experience.” (Salome Kapanadze, Georgia).

“The last two weeks have been eventful and full of new information, but they went so fast that I probably did not have time yet to be fully aware of all that has happened!” (Valeriia Sofishchenko, Ukraine).

“I am excited that I have experienced how it is to be a student at the University of Tartu. Just for two weeks, but that still helped me to set up one more goal for the future: I want to apply for the master’s programme at the University of Tartu in the faculty of economics and business administration.” (Ana Gagoshvili, Georgia)

“I hope to come back to Tartu in two years, this time as a master’s student at the University of Tartu. See you soon, Estonia!” (Yevhen Khavrona, Ukraine)

UT International Summer University 2016 participants. Photo sent by Ana Gagoshvili

UT International Summer University 2016 participants. Photo sent by Ana Gagoshvili

If you are interested in attending our International Summer University, keep an eye on our webpage. If you are interesting in attending University of Tartu as a degree-seeking student, look for more information at our admissions page. See you in Tartu!

Kaija Pook is an author and the editor of the UT Blog.

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