Thriving in Estonia: 9 Tips for New International Students

This blog post was written by Blessing, a Communications Management Ma student at Tallinn University.


Dear international student, congratulations on your admission to an Estonian university! As you embark on this exciting journey, it is only natural to feel a mix of excitement and anxiety about what lies ahead. Having been in your shoes, I understand the anticipation and uncertainty that comes with studying abroad. Therefore, I am delighted to share my tips, tricks, and lessons learned during my time studying in Estonia to help you navigate this new chapter and make the most of your experience.


  1. Invest in Quality Winter Clothing

  3. As you prepare to face Estonia’s cold winters, it may be tempting to save money by purchasing cheap winter jackets and boots. However, I strongly recommend investing in high-quality items that will keep you warm and comfortable throughout the season and even the next one. These durable pieces of winter clothing will last longer, saving you money in the long run.

    My personal tip is to look for pre-loved, secondhand, or thrift stores. Many of these stores offer quality items at a lower cost, allowing you to find great bargains. Just be sure to select high-quality pieces. Most of the shops have discounted sales days during the last two to three days of the month. So, go there around that period.

  4. Estonian winter

    If you aren’t a fan of secondhand items, that’s also fine. You can visit any of the regular stores to purchase what you need. Again, keep in mind that quality is way better than quantity. It’s better to have one good winter jacket than four cheap ones.


  6. Learn the Local Language

  8. While English is widely spoken in Estonia, learning the local language - Estonian - can significantly enhance your experience. Not only will it help you communicate with locals, but it will also enable you to engage more deeply with Estonian culture and immerse yourself in the local way of life. In addition, it would also give you an edge when applying for internships, jobs, local fellowships etc. In fact, this is why you need to start the language-learning journey early.


    Take advantage of the free language courses offered by your university or the government. My advice is that if you have the opportunity to register for the Estonian language course at the uni, pay attention in class and study it as you would your core courses. You have nothing to lose; I wish I had known this early on. Additionally, online language learning apps like Duolingo can be an excellent resource for learning the basics of Estonian at your own pace.


  10. Explore Student Discounts

  12. Unbeknownst to me, I had been missing out on incredible savings at some of my favourite stores until recently. It’s a shame that as I graduate, I won’t have access to these discounts anymore. So, don’t be like me! Take advantage of all available student discounts. Are you headed to a grocery store? Ask if student discounts are available. Visiting museums or going to a restaurant? Ask for student discounts! Looking to book a flight? Check for student discounts. You’d be surprised at how much you get to save.

    To ensure you maximise your access to student discounts not only in Estonia but also around the world, I highly recommend obtaining an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). This invaluable card serves as your gateway to a multitude of opportunities, making your student experience more affordable and enjoyable.

    Another thing I would advise on at this juncture is getting the loyalty/customer cards for your most frequented stores. Don’t let those discounted sales pass you by… And also rack up those loyalty points. 


  14. Network with Locals and Fellow International Students


Building a solid network of friends and acquaintances is crucial for your social life and future career opportunities. Estonia provides a vibrant community for international students, and by actively participating in university-organised events, joining clubs or societies, and attending local meetups, you can forge meaningful connections with both locals and fellow international students.

your community

It’s important to remember not to be shy! Take the first step and introduce yourself to others, then endeavour to keep in touch. You will find that people in Estonia are generally friendly (hard to believe, I know) and open to making new connections. It might take a bit of time, though, and that’s okay.

  1. Set a Monthly Budget

  3. Living and studying abroad can be costly, so it is essential to set a monthly budget to keep track of your expenses and manage your finances effectively. Consider things such as rent, groceries, transportation, entertainment, and travel when creating your budget.

    To simplify the process, you can utilize budgeting apps or create a simple spreadsheet to track your spending. This will help you stay accountable and ensure that you make informed financial decisions throughout your time in Estonia.


  1. Take Advantage of University Resources


Estonian universities offer a wealth of resources to support your academic success and personal development. These resources include libraries, tutoring services, career centers, mental health centers, and more. It is crucial to make the most of these opportunities to enhance your learning experience and prepare for your future career.

I recommend attending workshops and seminars offered by your university on topics such as study skills, time management, and job search strategies. By actively engaging with these resources, you can sharpen your skills, broaden your knowledge, and increase your chances of achieving success both academically and professionally.


  1. Embrace Estonian Cuisine


Exploring the local cuisine is an essential part of immersing yourself in Estonian culture. Don’t hesitate to try traditional Estonian dishes like kama, sült, and küüslauguleib. By embracing the culinary delights of Estonia, you will gain a deeper appreciation for the country’s cultural heritage.

estonian food

Photo credit: Näljane Nelik

To fully experience Estonian cuisine, I encourage you to visit local markets, groceries, and popup shops where you can find fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Experiment with cooking Estonian dishes at home and even invite friends to join in on the gastronomic adventure. Now I have to admit that I am not adventurous when it comes to food. Unfortunately, this is my own loss, as my friends never hesitate to gush over Estonian meals when the opportunity arises.


  1. Stay Active and Healthy


  1. Maintaining your overall well-being is crucial while studying abroad. Thankfully, Estonia offers a plethora of opportunities for outdoor activities, including hiking, cycling, and skiing. Taking time for physical activity not only contributes to your physical health but also boosts your mental well-being and helps you integrate into the local community.

    stay active

    Consider joining a local sports club or gym to stay active and meet new people who share similar interests. Alternatively, take advantage of the sports facilities provided by your university. Engaging in regular exercise will not only help you stay fit but also create a balanced and fulfilling student life.

    Personally, I love taking strolls through random places in Tallinn in the evenings when I have the time. I find it refreshing and have discovered some beautiful parks this way.


  3. Travel around Estonia and Beyond


While studying in Estonia, make the most of your time by exploring the country’s breathtaking landscapes, historic sites, and beautiful towns. Estonia is a treasure trove of beauty and culture, and by immersing yourself in its diverse offerings, you will create lasting memories and broaden your cultural horizons. As a personal tip, start from the places closest to you, then continue to widen your boundary. For instance, you shouldn’t be a resident of Tallinn without having walked the length and breadth of the Old Town.

Additionally, consider venturing beyond Estonia’s borders and visiting nearby countries such as Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, and Sweden. Travelling to these neighboring destinations will further enrich your international experience and provide valuable insights into different cultures and traditions. Again, I should admit that I don’t have much experience with this as I spent my time chasing other things. Thinking about it now, I wish I had tried to combine them. Well, I am about to start my own adventures. It’s never too late, right?

To make your travels more budget-friendly, keep an eye out for student discounts on transportation and accommodation. Travelling with friends can also help share costs and create unforgettable adventures.


Finally, remember, your time in Estonia can be an extraordinary adventure if you desire it to be so. So, embrace the challenges, learn from your experiences, and savour every moment. Good luck, and I wish you all the best in your academic journey and stay in Estonia!



Find out which international degree programmes are available for you in Estonia. 


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