Coming to Estonia...
First of all, during the decision-making process, one of the main reasons I chose this 2-year MA programme was for the Curriculum structure (specifically designed and tailored to broaden students’ knowledge on Baltic Sea Region), and prompt, courteous and considerate communication with the Tartu University Student service (during the application process).
Second, where could I receive a high-quality education about Baltic Sea region and Baltic countries, if not in the Baltic country - if not in Estonia? For instance, through attending the history course (History of the Baltic Sea Region, Academic Year 2008-2009) I saw how the events of the Singing Revolution have become interwoven into contemporary Estonian society, which is something I could have never achieved if I was to have studied it from home; it would have been just another history class.
Before coming here...
My ideas about Estonia before going there were quite positive – technologically advanced society, ‘singing nation’ and melodic language... and Kalev Chocolate (which I tasted before going to Estonia, and that was perhaps my first-time realization that I already liked the country without even being there before J).
I had also heard from my friends, who had visited Estonia, that Estonians are quiet, and the traffic is slow, but those last two stereotyped expectations were not confirmed, indeed.
Student life in Estonia...
In Estonia I once again experienced multicultural exposure and dynamic learning environment. Besides, I was living in a Dormitory with Estonian, Georgian and international students, which was another fascinating experience for me, since we do not have student dormitories in Georgia.
Studying in Estonia...
So much stays with me from my year and a half studying for Tartu´s MA in Baltic Sea Region Studies. All of the fascinating lectures, stimulating seminar discussions, eye-opening museum tours and field trips introduced whole new world of Baltic Sea Region to me. Apart from those academic learning outcomes, the most valuable personal outcomes for me, as an International student in Estonia, were increased self-confidence, multicultural values (tolerance for ambiguity, better understanding of my own cultural values and biases, and more sophisticated way of looking at the world).
And last but definitely not least – this 2-year MA programme led me to long-lasting friendships with other students met while studying in Tartu and in Berlin (as the Tartu University exchange student). I’ll always treasure this friendship, because the shared experience of living fully immersed in another/Estonian culture made these friendships particularly enduring! [My friends in Tartu were really from various and faraway countries, like: Great Britain, the United States of America, Ukraine, Belgium, Canada, Russia, Slovenia, Japan, China, Taiwan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany, Latvia, Moldova, Czech Republic, Ireland, Iceland, Poland, Italy, Denmark, and Australia].
Best things that have happened to me in Estonia...
While studying in Estonia we were taught to be more effective, respectful of other cultures, and willing to take a stand for the world’s welfare, not just what benefits a specific country. It gave me the ability to view the world, and its issues, from several perspectives. Moreover, my years spent in Estonia launched me into a personal involvement with the Estonian Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Furthermore, I had been chosen as the Winner of the Tartu University Facebook Journalist Contest (for my article: “One Day in Tartu”). Thus, now even when not in Tartu, I’m blogging for the Tartu University official Facebook Page during one academic year (2010-2011).
Competitions, such as this, arranged by the University of Tartu create a positive atmosphere that connects, involves and engages the community of similarly motivated alumni who graduated from the University of Tartu, and thus, students feel valued.
Overall, whether it was a student’s party till the early morning, intellectual ‘burning’ in the Tartu University library before exams, or just eating together with my friends in the nearby restaurant, the time spent in Tartu with friends from all over the world was an experience of a lifetime!
I would tell other Georgians...
Live in a dormitory! First and foremost because it is cheaper, and secondly you will have some friends around whenever you start feeling homesick.
Participate in an international evening! It is a great opportunity for You to present Georgia. Not only that you can taste various foods and drinks, you can also learn something about some more or less exotic cultures.
Discover Estonia! Go on a small excursion - the company from the dorm is almost always guaranteed. Besides, when you are already in Estonia this is the best time to discover its nature and to meet ordinary people.
Cook something for your friends! When classes are over prepare some Georgian food for your friends. Be sure that at least three people will come in the Dorm common kitchen and ask you what you are cooking J
Talk to your professors! Approach them after class, visit them during their office hours, ask them questions - my professors at the University of Tartu were very welcoming and always willing to help.
Take Estonian Language classes! Whether You are in Estonia for one semester or a year, taking Estonian language classes will help You to better feel the environment that You are temporarily living in, and to better communicate with locals (even with Your basic Estonian language skills :)).
Go to the Library! I had a very positive experience at the Tartu University Library – excellent service, cozy and friendly environment to relax in after a long day at the University.
Terviseks is NOT a funny word! It means ,,Cheers’’ (გაუმარჯოს!) in Estonian.
Conventional wisdom says that a video can say more than a thousand words, thus, consider this video in case you are still deciding whether or not Estonia is the right option for You.
My degree programme is...
,,City of Good Thoughts” - attractive campus city - Baltic Studies Masters Program - good atmosphere - a setting of professors and students from all over the world - perfect opportunity for those interested in Baltic Sea Region.
While being away from my home country, I miss the most...
When I am away from my country, I miss my country, family, Georgian cuisine (especially, Khachapuri (Georgian cheese pie), and last but definitely not least, I miss the Sun shining brightly :)
Studying is in Estonia is an international experience...
Studying abroad gives a chance to observe the issues and challenges we face, to encourage our efforts, and better develop skills that make us adaptable to new jobs and tasks, like: critical thinking, problem solving, ability to integrate information, and team work.
My future plans...
Future is unpredictable as it is said, but my ultimate goal at this moment is to successfully complete my degree/defend the M.A. thesis, and to have the opportunity to participate in the official Graduation Ceremony. Those ceremonies are so beautiful and poignant – a very beautiful tradition of Estonian Universities.
The last thing I want to say...
ზუსტად არც კი მახსოვს პირველად როდის შემიყვარდა ,,კარგი მოგონებების ქალაქი“ (ტარტუ), მაგრამ დარწმუნებული კი ვარ, რომ ისე, უბრალოდ, შემთხვევით არაფერი ხდება. ყველაფერს, რაც ხდება, თავისი მიზეზი აქვს. და ახლა, როცა ტარტუში არ ვარ და იქ გატარებულ წელიწადნახევარს ვიხსენებ, დანამდვილებით ვიცი, რომ ზუსტად იქ აღმოვჩნდი, სადაც მინდოდა ვყოფილიყავი.
ტარტუ - ეს არის პატარა ქალაქი დიადი ფიქრებისთვის.
ტარტუ - ეს არის ადგილი, სადაც ყველაზე პატარა მოვლენაც კი შეიძლება დიდ თავგადასავლად გადაიქცეს.
ტარტუ - ეს არის ჩვენი ბედნიერი დეპრესიისა და სერიოზულ ხუმრობების ადგილი.
ესტონეთი არის ყოველივე ეს ერთად აღებული და უფრო მეტი.
I do not remember exactly when I fall in love for the first time with „the City of Good Thoughts“ (Tartu). But I do know that things are happening for reason. And now, when I am not in Tartu and I’m looking back to the year and a half I spent in Tartu, I know that I was exactly where I wanted to be.
Tartu is a small town to think big thoughts.
Tartu is the place where the smallest things become an adventure.
Tartu is the place of our happy depression and serious jokes.
Estonia is all that and definitely more.