Hi! It’s your friendly Nigerian neighbor studying in Estonia - Nkajima. I hope you have been keeping safe, wearing your masks, washing your hands and using sanitizers! Remember, it’s important to keep to safety regulations wherever you are!
Should you choose to embark on the journey to Estonia, make sure you take the necessary precautions and stick to country regulations when travelling.
In the last seven months, I have come across new students that decided to come to Estonia amidst the pandemic and travel regulations. I find it astonishing that even with travel regulations and most studies moving online, students still found a way to come. This made me reach out to two students and find out what their experience was like coming to Estonia. If you have also applied or are already enrolled in an Estonian university and are planning on travelling here, then this blog post might be helpful.
It is important to note that this is not to encourage you to travel (we are still in the middle of a pandemic). However, should you choose to embark on the journey to Estonia, make sure you take the necessary precautions and stick to country regulations when travelling!
Travelling to Estonia. Photo: Nordica
Yolandah is a first-year Quantitative Economics MA student at the University of Tartu. She is from Zimbabwe and was in the United States of America when Covid-19 hit. However, she felt the cases in Estonia compared to the U.S. were low and saw that Estonia was taking necessary safety measures. Hence, she began her journey to Tartu.
Esther, on the other hand, was in Nigeria when Covid hit. She wanted to come to Estonia because she was eager to meet her course-mates and lecturers. She is a first-year Innovation and Technology Management MA Student at the University of Tartu, and she is a Nigerian. I got the chance to ask about their visa procedure, travel route, isolation and all other important details you don’t want to miss.
(*Y = Yolandah , *E = Esther)
What was your travel process like in coming to Estonia - in which country did you apply for your visa? How long did it take? How was it like travelling with the travel regulations?
Y: I applied for my visa in the USA. It took about a week for me to get my passport back with the visa. Travelling during this pandemic was a bit stressful. It is best to be aware of travel regulations implemented by each country you would be going through. During my travel, I was stuck in the Netherlands for a day due to my last connecting flight being cancelled three times. Thankfully, I had booked my flight through a reliable USA airline that helped me get on another flight with no extra charges.
E: I applied for my Estonian visa through the Estonian embassy in London. It took five business days for me to get my visa. I felt the process was fast. It was a lot of hassle travelling with the restrictions and an extended amount of self-isolation (having to pause your plans for a whole 14 days). Experiencing the nose swab for the first time was very uncomfortable.
Yolandah started her journey to Estonia from the US. Photo: Yolandah
Were you in touch with your University? Was there some sort of assistance pre-arrival and post-arrival? What information was shared with you during quarantine as a student? Places to quarantine? Getting from the airport to school?
Y: I am more than grateful for the way the university was very communicative throughout the process. I had a place in the dormitory, and the university provided isolation rooms for anyone living in the dorm, so that was one less thing to worry about. Since we had to have a Covid test done upon arrival, the university also provided information regarding where to get the test, the estimated cost, and how to book an appointment. Upon arrival, the university had arranged free transportation from the airport to the university. My last connecting flight was cancelled three times which means my arrival time changed three times. Fortunately, I stayed in touch with the university throughout my journey, and they arranged for someone to pick me up from the airport.
E: Yes, I was in touch with my university, and they were so helpful during this period. They provided a taxi to pick me up from the airport. Even when I had issues with my self-isolation accommodation, they came through by calling the student accommodation to see if they could make plans for me. However, before arriving, they didn’t give like places to isolate; they showed more of a brief overview of where to isolate and not specifics. They also shared a lot of information in regards to pre-arrival and post-arrival which I think was more related to the steps upon your arrival in Estonia.
Esther studies Innovation and Technology Management at University of Tartu. Photo: Esther
So far, how has your student journey been since your arrival, considering COVID has halted things like in-class learning?
Y: As an international student, the idea of online learning does not seem very appealing as we also want to explore our new area. However, it has been an exciting journey so far. Online learning is more challenging, but thankfully, our professors are doing their best to make the experience less stressful. What has helped me so far is keeping in touch with my classmates even though we do not get to see each other as much as we would if we had in-class learning.
E: Honestly, it hasn’t been so great. Having to adapt to online classes has been stressful. I was looking forward to attending classes considering that I learn better when I attend classes physically.
Main building of University of Tartu. Photo: University of Tartu
What advice would you give incoming students on travelling safely to Estonia?
Y: Travelling during this time can be very stressful. My advice is to please book your flight with reliable companies/agencies that would help in case of flight changes without any extra costs. Also, be sure to read through all the regulations for each country you would be going through as the regulations are not the same for all countries.
E: I would say - be flexible to change, don’t be rigid, so you would not be caught off guard and have to struggle to adjust.
My advice to you…
Once again, travelling in a pandemic is risky as you are exposing yourself (and possibly others) to the virus. But with international travels opening up, my advice to you is:
- For those of you in countries where there is no Estonian embassy, you need to plan on what country you would visit to get the Estonian D-visa. Here’s a comprehensive list of countries that issue Estonian visa. Choose the most convenient one, email and book an appointment. Make sure you are taking into consideration the isolation period in the country!
- Be in constant communication with your university. Always contact the student office or international office. Ask questions about isolation, how to take Covid tests, safe ways to get from the airport to the school, everything and anything that makes sure you are doing this safely - your health is essential, so take it seriously.
- Be patient. The world is not the way it used to be, and travelling is not what it used to be. Travelling in the pandemic is strenuous. Coupled with online classes, the process can be frustrating. It might sound like a cliché, but you have to be patient.
You can always reach out to the student ambassadors if you have questions (firstname.lastname@example.org). We are always happy to answer. On that note, tsau!