Honest advice from current international students

Last autumn the University of Tartu took part in an international student survey International Student Barometer (ISB). As a part of the survey, our international degree and exchange students could give advice to new students. Here’s what they said.

… don’t be scared to make this decision

“Definitely apply to UT and continue your studies in Estonia. The education system is great, and the standard of living is satisfactory. There are a lot of things to see in Estonia and a lot of opportunities can open after you finish your studies. You will meet a lot of interesting people and meet friends not only from Estonia, but also from a lot of different countries.”

“Do not hesitate to come to the University of Tartu. The city is peaceful and beautiful. People are welcoming. Education is top class. You will not regret it.”

“Come. Heaven here.”

“Don’t be afraid to leave your country for a better education! It is easier that it is seems to be.”

“If you find your passion in life and you think that you can learn more about your passion for example at the University of Tartu, just go for it! If you’re not sure what your passion is; try different things and use the process of exclusion. Learn and embrace the knowledge given to you and make best use of it. Life is short, and time is of the essence, don’t waste it!”

“Honestly, I would just tell them to find something to study that they love, no matter what anyone says or thinks. “

“Not to be scared of change too much. There are opportunities to follow. Don’t be alone, try to communicate and engage.”

“Even though the weather is really bad, it’s mostly raining, windy, snowy, and current prices are quite high, UT is an amazing institution, which gives you the chance to be proficient in your future aspirations and that is what matters.”

… but just in case make a thorough research to make sure it’s the best fit for you

“Talk to an existing student and any alumni of the similar programme one wants (preferably from the same country or region) and ask the hard questions. It’s better to check what’s really happening beyond what is marketed in the university and tourism sites. If it’s worth coming over, then go for it with less expectations.”

“Be mentally and emotionally prepared”

“Coming from my BA degree in Mediation and Communication, was not a piece of cake to continue my education in Political Science. Firstly, it was frustrating in the beginning to see that other students were more prepared then me and therefore more reactive. However, I would suggest not to get frustrated for that, but to try to enrich your classmates with your own knowledge/background instead of being upset for no reasons. Secondly, and most important piece of advice, I would say surrounding yourself with positive people will help a lot the learning process and the University experience in general. Indeed, living in an international environment can be exciting and interesting but sometimes rough since people are very different in approaching difficulties. I would recommend to stick with the positive and optimistic people only, because life is too complicated already!”

.. make sure you have enough money

“Look into your finances before you come. However, there opportunities for working but plan your schedule very well. Also, it gets dark very early, prepare for that!”

“Investigate the various forms of funding available.”

… studying at UT is tough, but worth it

“To apply when you feel ready to start studying, because studying in UT is hard and may even be very stressing, so many lose interest or burn out. But after the first years it gets better, and you may enjoy your field of study 😊”

“Take as many courses as possible during your first year. Do not limit yourself to the required minimum amount. This will help you in your later study semesters where courses become more time consuming.”

“Expectancy and work load are much higher than at home, but “nicer” exams and possibility to choose between different examination dates at the end of semester! :)”

“I will encourage them to psyche themselves mentally because the learning atmosphere here is much demanding and demands multi-tasking ability because there are always some assignments to submit, presentations and other things. You must be mentally strong otherwise you may not be able to enjoy your study here.”

“Work hard, because it worth it.”

“Be ready to study and learn. The University of Tartu is for serious-minded people.”

“You should take MA degree as a part-time, and even often full-time job. It is not easy, but it is a lot of fun. It is also encouraging to study since you are treated as a potential peer by your teachers, and every idea counts. However, you need the knowledge to back up your ideas, so you study, study, study! I have been at the both sides; employee (as a teacher), student, and for a brief time employer. There is no bigger satisfaction, and more fun than learning, discovering new ideas, and being a student!”

… sometimes you will forget that you ever had a social life

“One must know that s/he will have to put aside two years of his/her life and dedicate these years totally to the studies.”

“Prepare to give up your social life.”

“Be open and don’t be ashamed to talk. The university is giving you relevant knowledge in this field, so use each moment of it! Study hard and it will be appreciated, however don’t forget about social life, because Tartu gives you so many opportunities to enjoy your life.”

… don’t lose your focus

“Try to think about your future, career and other important things. Do not think that your parents are not here, and you can do everything you want, because you are free. Be sure that you have understood the meaning of being free/independent.”

“Keep calm. Take it easy. Life is not about semiotic theory, rather about semiosis.”

“Do not give up. Find a way to work with something that you love and that also has a good market. Combine fields of study if necessary. Do your best.”

“Remember to find new friends, have fun and CHECK THE DEADLINES, DO YOUR HOMEWORK.”

.. use all the opportunities you can

“There are many facilities made available by the University both in terms of studies and recreational, so it would be wise to make the most of it.”

“Use the professional and learning opportunities Tartu gives you (research, study courses, hackathons, networking events).”

“Do not restrict yourself to studying only subjects from your curriculum, go and explore various courses that UT offers and improve your skills and knowledge in various fields or expand your knowledge in the field you are studying in by participating in various classes if such a possibility is offered to you and it appeals to your general interest in the field.”

“Start involving in as many start-up events as possible, as they will give great experience and use opportunities given by the university as much as possible, for example Erasmus Internships.”

“Embrace everything around you, the culture, people, everything. My decision to study in a foreign country was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made due to the people I’ve met, friends I’ve made, and experiences I’ve had. Studies are important, but make sure you go experience the world while you’re here. There is so much to do and see, you’ll never be bored if you look in the right places. Good luck!”

“Enjoy your experience at the fullest. Time flies here in Tartu.”

“Don’t just hang around the university – go into the city. Find a museum, a coffee shop. Read every plaque you see in a park. Talk to Estonians. There are so many things to learn here, and you are so fortunate to have the opportunity to do so.”

.. you will befriend an Estonian, even if it takes a little bit of time and effort

“I would advise them to merge with Estonian – and break the ice. They are interesting and intelligent people for most of the time – but often hard to communicate with, it is not only a stereotype. I would advise them, to not only meet people from the University. I would also advise student to take part of the community, by building up their projects, and using the flexibility of the local environment to go further with their projects. We have for instance organised river cleaning days – think tanks – rugby clubs – lots of possibilities here.”

“If you are international student in Estonia, don’t expect to befriend with Estonians immediately, but once you become this is for whole life probably.”

…. you can be homesick, but there’s a cure for it

“I want to advise all the students to be prepared for difficulties. Homesickness is something which will always guide you, but the atmosphere is so nice here that you will eventually get used to homesickness. The lecturers usually tell us to do homework in teams, so you will get to know new people and learn new things.”

“Go to public events, there are plenty in Tartu which are free and meet new people from different countries.”

… you will experience new cultures

Be open to a different culture (learn some history) + take everything out of and enjoy your life in Tartu 😊”

“Learn and respect host country’s culture, language, traditions. Try to make every today more useful then yesterday. Do not fall in a depression, find supportive network (friends). Be respectful and kind to all people. Do not break any rules, you are NOT in your home country, never forget about it.”

… study Estonian – especially when you consider a career here

“Learn Estonian language ahead of time or immediately upon arrival into Estonia for easy integration.”

“Study Estonian! It’s very worthwhile, and it will open up Tartu in a whole new way. You will be able to make many more friends and will get to a see a side of the city (and of Estonia) that many international students miss out on.”

That’s it! See you soon in Estonia!

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