Our top 10 most-read stories from 2020 are personal

Our most popular stories from last year are mostly very personal. These include quarantine diaries, a love story, a journey on the way to scientific discoveries, a quest for freedom, proud stories of graduation, and professional success. Enjoy!

1. Student diary: About self-care in quarantine

Anja Tovirac, our exchange student from Germany last spring, shared her fresh quarantine experience from Tartu in March:

COVID-19 is omnipresent at the moment. Coronavirus has reached Tartu and we are all affected. To prevent the spread of the virus and due to the state of emergency declared by the Estonian government, not only the university, but most of our personal social life now takes place at home.

Anja at the window of her Tartu apartment, looking for the signs of spring. Photo from a private collection

2. Our big day: It all started in Tartu

Anna Beitane and Stefano Braghiroli shared their Tartu love story:

A couple of weeks ago we had our big day, a day in a long path that has changed us both and will change our lives forever: a path of responsibility, commitment, respect, and – most of all – love. On 25 July we tied the knot and it was a sunny day of happiness! It was a moment that we had planned and imagined for almost a year, but had been very much threatened – until the final weeks – by the global pandemic and the unprecedented uncertainty related to it.

Anna and Stefano
Anna and Stefano descending the stairs of Modena’s City Hall. Photo credit: 10 Photography – Francesca Pradella

3. Why is Hong Kong protesting?

Two University of Tartu students from Hong Kong, Litman Huang and Aubrey Yung, wrote about the protests against the Chinese Communist Party in their home city. In their story, they also draw parallels to the Estonian past in the Soviet Union and point out the mechanisms of Chinese soft power.

4. Student diary: Deciding about “going back” and getting reliable information on COVID-19

Twins Efe and Ege Ergür, medical students at the University of Tartu, wrote about why they decided to stay in Estonia and where to look for reliable sources on COVID-19. This perspective is from March 2020.

Ege and Efe Ergür
Efe is on the left and Ege on the right. The photo was taken at a private event, when these were still widely common. Photo from a private collection

5. My gold rush in science

Brain researcher Jaan Aru describes his scientific gold rush:

No scientist is the same, and people become involved in science for different reasons. I am in science because I’m addicted to the feeling of being on the verge of solving a scientific mystery, discovering scientific “gold”. But as it often happens, a scientist, like any treasure hunter, hits nothing but rocks, and the months and years of explorations remain futile.

Jaan Aru, in the shoes of an old gold miner, searching for scientific treasures. Image credit: New Zealand Graphic/Wikipedia and Inga Külmoja

6. Favour from Nigeria: I want to be a model for how you view my continent, my country, my race

This is a story of Ezinne Favour Ogwuegbu, a 2020 cum laude graduate of our master’s programme in international relations and regional studies. Favour grew up in the eastern part of Nigeria. She belongs to one of the 250+ tribes, the Igbo. Her grandfather was a local king of their village, and is believed to have had about 15 wives. One of her uncles served as a chief justice of Nigeria. Favour comes from a family that takes education very seriously.

7. What Belarusian people joke about

Anastasiya Fiadotava defended her PhD thesis on Belarusian family humour at the University of Tartu last year. She wrote about the sources of jokes of Belarusian people, including jokes arising from the recent political disruption in Belarus. For example, one of her interviewees described a practical joke she had once played on her husband:

I mostly do the cooking … But on Saturdays he [my husband] must cook breakfast for me. Once he refused to cook it on a Saturday; he said: ‘Cook it yourself’. I said: ‘Okay’ and put two eggs in the microwave oven [where they exploded]. He then had to wash it. Now he cooks [every Saturday], sure thing.

8. How happy are international students at UT?

Our International Marketing Specialist, Anna Branets, wrote an overview of the results from the International Student Barometer (ISB) survey. 92% of international students reported to be satisfied with their arrival experience at UT. The international students highly evaluated the finance (98%) and accommodation (93%) offices, pre-arrival information (93%), formal welcoming (93%), meeting the staff (92%), and local orientation (91%).

Our International Student Ambassadors in 2020.

9. Laziness and Erasmus go together well. So how to make the most of your study abroad?

Jiří Svoboda, our Erasmus student from Czech Republic last spring, felt surprised by how much free time he had in Tartu. According to him, there were too many party opportunities with which Erasmus students could fill the gaps (Well, it was still February). Jiří presented a few methods for staying more organised that proved useful to him. Although parties don’t present much of a threat any more, the tips are still relevant in the pandemic era.

10. How Lyudmyla leads semiotic research in a Moscow agency

In an interview for UT Blog, our fresh PhD Lyudmyla Zaporozhtseva unveiled how she leads semiotic research at a marketing research agency in Moscow. Lyudmyla told UT Blog about how the agency works, what her daily work looks like, and how she feels about her recent PhD defence at the University of Tartu.

Grotesque beauty is an emerging trend in the representation of women in Russian mass culture. This means we see more and more admiration for distortion of exaggerated proportions, loss of taboo with regard to unshaven legs and armpits, and a trend for embracing the original self. Image from a personal archive
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