How to be the greenest fellow in Tartu?

Being green in everyday life is no longer only a specialty for environmental enthusiasts, but also fashionable for you to try out. If you agree, you will find Tartu to be the best place to kick off this series of green-you-up campaigns!

Challenge 1: Build yourself a bike!

To mitigate the climate crisis, the second highest personal action is to live a car-free life (Wonder what the top one is? Have one less child, according to a study conducted by Lund University). Where to build this magical bike? TERT! It is the coolest community-based bike shop where you can build your own bike with the assistance of the amazing mechanics. They also welcome hands just to repair bikes! By the way, they rent bikes, too! You can buy one and return it when you no longer use it. There is another option online where they also sell second-hand bicycles. 

If it’s broken, fix it!

Challenge 2: Participate in one Fridays for Future Eesti climate strike!

It’s no mistake: Students in Tartu hold strikes for the climate! Tartu is one of the few cities in the Baltic States that first stood up for climate justice. You’re invited to bring your buddies and raise your voices for the climate! Come to Town Hall Square and get inspired. 

Tartu climate strike on 15 March 2019
The Tartu climate strike on 15 March 2019 gathered a lot of youth. Image credit: Asia Bartonowicz
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The thousands of lives you lived

There is a world of wonder inside us and its home is in almost every cell our body carries. ( Well, I say ‘almost’ because apart from your cells, there are more than 100 trillion microorganisms that live inside you?) It’s been over 60 years since the molecular structure of DNA was discovered, and the world still looks at the double helix with wonder.

Animation of a rotating DNA structure. Credit: brian0918 / Wikimedia Commons

This little molecule, present in millions in the body, with four letters (A,T,C,G aka nucleotides) repeated 3 billion times, can direct the constructions, operations, and terminations of almost everything your body is capable of doing. There actually is an amazing world inside our cells, and we, the geneticists, have set out to find all of its wonders. Alright, alright, I am not yet one. I am on my way to get my PhD; give me some time and it will be official!

Many of us geneticists study the functional information present in the genes: tiny fragments in the 3-billion nucleotide sequence which are read and translated into proteins, which do most of the work inside your cells. What I do, on the other hand, is a bit different.

Some mutations have a silver lining

Apart from genes, there are a lot of other sequences that do not code for proteins: they are called non-coding sequences, or also “junk” DNA, and that’s what I study. To be fair, nobody calls non-coding DNA “junk” nowadays, as scientists realized long ago the huge potential of studying these segments. So, what could I ever find in “junk” non-coding DNA?

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How I developed magical eyeglasses for my father

As a person whose father uses two pairs of glasses (one pair for reading and writing, and the other for watching TV) and one optical lens to perform his daily activities, I had a dream to create one magical eyeglass to replace all his other glasses.

Combining the knowledge I gained through my studies in Innovation and Technology Management at the University of Tartu with my computer science background, I started to approach the idea as an aim rather than a dream. Together with Murad, who was my course mate from undergraduate studies in Azerbaijan and is now also mastering software engineering at UT, we started to think of ways to turn this idea into reality.

Murad Mammadov and Elchin Aghazada in front of Estonian National Museum. Image credit: UT IdeaLab

With this in mind, our paths crossed with UT IdeaLab and its STARTER programme, which provided great support to us in the sense of helping to shape our idea into a tested business model. At the end, hard work, sleepless nights, and being dedicated to our aim resulted in the development of the minimum viable product of our magical eyeglasses, ZoomX.

ZoomX is an all-in-one eyeglass that resolves all your hassles. Controlled via mobile app, it allows a person to continuously adjust focus on the objects with respect to his/her vision. In other words, instead of buying three glasses, you can buy only one pair of ZoomX, and all you need to do is wear it, enter the app, and adjust focus. Moreover, as your vision gets better or worse in time, you don’t need to renew your glasses, but instead just change the focus of ZoomX.

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Mariam from Georgia: I knew more about Tartu semiotics than about Estonia

Mariam Nozadze
Mariam Nozadze receives her master’s diploma from the rector of the University of Tartu. Photo by Andres Tennus

On the day of our interview, Mariam arrived to Tartu from a week-long conference. She walked through the streets and said: “Oh my god, this is so familiar!” She had the feeling of opening the door and saying: “Hey Mom, I just got back!”

Mariam’s family is back in Georgia, though, which is where she headed after graduating from the master’s programme in semiotics at the University of Tartu.

Mariam had been studying in Tartu with a Georgian governmental scholarship funded by the International Education Center. Her only obligation was to study well, which she did. Now she would present her study experience and diploma and see what the ministry would like her to do.

Prior to coming to Estonia, Mariam knew more about Tartu semiotics than she did about the country itself. The Estonian climate took her by surprise. While many find November the most difficult month to cope with, for Mariam it was October – not winter yet, but cold according to her Georgian standards.

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Iris: Estonia came after Nicaragua and Taiwan

Photo from a personal archive

When Iris first landed in Estonia two years ago, she remembers seeing a huge lamp in the clear, dark sky. It was the full moon, so big and so close; it felt like you could grab it. In other parts of the world where Iris had lived, the moon seemed to be so far away.

This was the beginning of what Iris calls a magic experience with Estonia. Here she first saw the snow and the sky so blue. Having lived in Taiwan for seven years, she appreciates the purity of the air. In Tartu, everything is so close – you can walk everywhere and, importantly, at any time, as Estonia is a safe country. This is one of the similarities with Taiwan, which is one of the safest countries in the world.

Another similarity with Asia relates to the native people’s character – Iris has noticed that Estonians are composed and don’t show emotions, pretty much like the people she met in Asia.

Iris came to Estonia from Taiwan, and to Taiwan from her home country, Nicaragua, where she had received her first bachelor’s degree in banking and finances. Supported by a stipend, she aspired to a second bachelor’s in Taiwan. This time it was Chinese as a second language. Having learned Chinese, she still finds Estonian difficult. She sums up her experience with Estonian as “I tried and I cried”.

After studying and working in Taiwan, Iris came to Estonia to pursue her master’s degree in Innovation and Technology Management. She learned about the University of Tartu with the help of a friend, who also found a fitting programme and came to Tartu.

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Your ideal project manager, Anastasiia

Photo from a personal archive

Anastasiia is a fresh graduate of UT’s Democracy and Governance master’s programme from Ukraine, busy with numerous projects. She even calls her master’s thesis a project, which it surely is. Her first visit to Estonia was also within the framework of a project.

Anastasiia works with the Institute of Baltic Studies, she is a grant officer in an international project, she initiated the series of 15×4 Tartu events, she acted as the president of International Student Ambassadors at the University of Tartu, she organized jam sessions for ESN, and so on and so forth. And, she is looking for a job, which is fully understandable if you consider the fact that much of the work she does is unpaid volunteering.

Before starting a project, Anastasiia goes through a mental checklist: How much time should I offer to this project? How much time is required to offer? Is there a clash? How important and how impactful can this project be for me? How is it going to change my life? Can I put it on my CV? Can it give me new contacts with people? Can I get some profit from it?

Photo from a personal archive

Anastasiia admits that she is into multitasking. She is organized and likes to plan everything in detail when it comes to projects. She is used to working with people, as you would expect a project manager to be. Was it difficult to communicate with people from different cultural backgrounds whom she met in Tartu? Anastasiia’s smart, spontaneous answer is: “It’s always difficult to communicate with any people, even from your own country.”

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HK’s leaderless global movement for G20 – everything you need to know

German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung’s ad on Hong Kong. Credit: Facebook page of Freedom HONG KONG

Hong Kong has its own way of appealing to the world. 

After staging two peaceful demonstrations of over a million Hongkongers within a week, another miracle has taken place in this former British colony. Over USD 641,000 was raised online to publish newspaper ads in Britain, America, Canada, Germany, Japan, and Belgium within hours of the campaign created by a group of Hong Kong netizens. But the world has already been watching Hong Kong since the beginning of June. 

1. What is the global movement about?

It was trigged by controversial legislation proposed by the local government earlier this year, which would allow extradition to take place between Hong Kong and mainland China, as well as with other jurisdictions where Hong Kong has no existing agreements. 

The Hong Kong government refused to withdraw the legislation after a wave of protests in Hong Kong. Overseas Hongkongers living in Britain, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, America, Canada and many more countries showed their solidarity by staging demonstrations from afar. 

Hence, some Hong Kong netizens started crowdfunding a global campaign to call for international support regarding Hong Kong’s diminishing autonomous status, thereby raising the awareness of the world leaders who will take part in the G20 Summit in the Japanese city Osaka later this week. 

Overseas Hongkongers’ campaign to show solidarity with Hong Kong. Credit: Facebook page of Global Solidarity with Hong Kong
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