Iryna from Belarus Found Her Passion in Tartu

Since early childhood, I have been travelling a lot. I have met people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds. It has shaped me a lot and made me dream about studying abroad. Eventually, my dream came true here, in Estonia.

Iryna as an International Student Ambassador

I arrived in Tartu in August 2014, when I started the Bachelor of Business Administration programme at the University of Tartu. I decided to study here for several reasons. Firstly, the University of Tartu is the best university in the Baltic Region, with a long and colourful history. Secondly, the programme is fully English-taught. Finally, Estonia is not really far from Belarus – my homeland.

When I received the description of my curriculum, it seemed to be really diverse and interesting. After three years of studying, I can confirm that the subjects are covering different fields of interest, starting with Business Communication and Entrepreneurship courses, and finishing with rather exact sciences, such as Corporate Finance and Economic Policy. It gives students an opportunity to understand what they really want to do after graduating, as you are rather obliged to explore everything. I find it beneficial, because I managed to find the field I am truly passionate about – finance.

I understood immediately that you are immersed in the international environment in Tartu. My class has 25 students from Estonia and all over the world: China, Japan, France, Germany, Georgia, Russia, USA, and many others, including exchange students coming for a semester or a year. I like this the most about the university – you are not only learning your programme, but you have an opportunity to explore different cultures, ideas and thoughts. You learn something new every day. Moreover, it teaches you how to interact with people from different nationalities, which I believe is important in the age of globalisation and internationalisation.

Iryna at the Main Building

I have not studied at a Belarusian university, but considering the words of my friends, I believe that the education at the University of Tartu is different for several reasons. Firstly, due to the specific environment created by students and lecturers, you really study in Tartu. You receive the education you want, with a possibility to modify your own curriculum as well as develop your talent and potential. You can take languages, programming, and photography – any course you want, as long as it does not interfere with your mandatory curriculum. I have been learning French for two years, taking several courses concerning politics, folklore, and some online-based courses. The result you receive upon the end of any class is highly correlated with the effort you put into it throughout the semester. Students have an opportunity to earn points throughout the course, which later become a part of their final grade. This way, the studying process becomes less stressful for an individual and the information one has learnt does not vanish.

Secondly, students learn how to work both individually and in teams. The lecturers at the university pay great attention to the development of those skills. When you are in class, you face many group works, presentations, debates, but when you are out of class – you have to study on your own quite a big fraction of your time. It helps students to learn how to speak their mind in public, be able to work with others and be able to make their own decisions, including whether you have to prepare for a particular subject or not.

Thirdly, Estonia is an e-country. It is very technologically developed and start-up oriented. Studying business in this kind of environment is priceless. Some of my classmates actually used the opportunity and opened their start-up here in Estonia. Moreover, Wi-Fi covers literally every corner of the city. Personally, I have stopped using my phone, as I always have a chance to call through the internet. In addition, we are using a great study information system, where we can find all the schedules, exercises, slides and books.

Iryna participating in a photo shoot for the university

International students have a legal right to work in Estonia during the period of their studies if it does not interfere with their studies. Many companies provide internships and practical training to students. There are more opportunities to students with sufficient knowledge of Estonian language, but some companies do not require it. For example, I have been working at the University of Tartu as a teaching assistant for nearly 1.5 years and I had a wonderful internship at an Estonian company Icosagen. I know quite many people who work in start-ups and are very satisfied with their jobs. If you have good motivation and persistence, you will find your place.

Apart from studying and working, Tartu is definitely a student city – full of energy, emotions, parties and fun. Student organisations take good care of international students in Tartu. They organise many different events, which keep students busy. Among them are language cafes, dance classes, talent shows, karaoke, jam sessions, Holi festival, pool parties, charity events, shelter visits, science days and many more. I volunteered to hold dancing classes and organise a flea market. You can take initiative anytime and do something yourself! There are also Student Days, which happen twice a year and are specifically dedicated to students. During those weeks, you can participate in different tours, go to the museums, take part in competitions, boat racing, music festivals and others. My favourite events are jam sessions, where students create bands and play music for the audience.

Flea market – an event organised by Iryna

You can find numerous student organisations in Tartu, including Erasmus Student Network, AIESEC and International Student Ambassadors. I am a member of the latter one and represent Belarus. I have had a chance to organise events for fellow students, represent the university at international educational fairs and share my experience with prospective students interested in the university. In addition, there are several organisations in my faculty, such as IdeaLAB, an incubator for business ideas, and Economic Club, formed by students to solve case studies and issues in modern economy.

IdeaLAB event with fellow Business Administration students

As every fifth person in Tartu is a student, you can always see familiar faces on the streets. It creates an atmosphere of home and cosiness. Such environment and support from my friends helped me not feel home sick. I can certainly say that right now I have so many friends from nearly every part of the world, including Estonians. If you arrive to Tartu, you should definitely try to get to know Estonian people, they are really nice and intelligent. Nearly everybody in Estonia speaks at least two languages. For me, as I did not learn Estonian in depth, it is convenient, as I can turn to a person speaking either English or Russian.

Experience in Tartu has definitely changed my life. It has broadened my horizons and I have certainly learnt a lot. I am proud to be a part of this big family. I am graduating this year, but I believe that this experience will stay with me until the rest of my life.

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