Top Challenges of a Caucasus Student in Tartu – Meline (Armenia)
It’s already two month I am enjoying the great honor of being an international student at Tartu University and I have already described my impressions on how much I like it being here surrounded by professors who really care about the students and students who really came here with the aim of becoming better leaders in the future.
Well, now it is time to be honest and tell you that not everything is as perfect as it seems. I have studied at various universities, so it is not the first time for me to be an international student. However, I find some difficulties in each country I study depending on its’ cultural, political, geographical and other peculiarities.
This is for sure the first and sometimes constant feeling you have while being abroad. This is easy to overcome, and the best solution is just to do as many extracurricular activities as possible, join various student organizations, participate in lectures, seminar and conferences organized by the faculties.
In addition, I would like to mention, that if you plan to study abroad, it is a good idea to think about how open-minded you are. I do not want to sound very strict, but it is of great importance for an international student to be open for completely different points of views, as, eventually, you are surrounded by people having distinct backgrounds, cultures and views.
The next challenge that you can encounter, is more specific, the language. In Tartu, most of the youngsters speak English, so there is no problem in making friends with them, but, it is a bit difficult to deal with people outside of the university, in supermarket, shops, hospitals. If you speak Russian, there is a huge possibility that people will understand you, but if you only speak English, forget about it. This statement does not mean no one speaks English in these places, it is just rarely. For example, I had a difficulty in the dental clinic, where the dentist could speak only Estonian and Russian, and, not being very fluent in Russian although I have an average level, it was very difficult to explain in detail what I want. But this is not a disaster, you will always have the option of body language to understand each other. To my surprise, I even had the chance to discuss politics with the dentist, after her statement why I study politics in Estonia if my country has chosen completely different direction in comparison to Estonia.
In addition to these, welcome to the next challenge, the weather. In Tartu you have to take umbrella and an additional jacket when going out, because you never know what surprises the Estonian weather has in store for you, typical weather common to Baltic states. If you are coming from a tropical and warm country, this is going to be a real challenge.
Dealing with Estonians
As an Armenian, I am used to be surrounded with people who are friendly and sometimes over friendly and caring, which is a common feature to the Caucasus region in general. For this reason, it takes some time for me to get used to this new environment, where, frankly speaking, people need to keep a distance, as much as possible. When dealing with Estonians, one should make sure not to cross the border, otherwise this might lead to a disappointment for both sides.
Educational system can be another challenge. The educational system is quite effective, but it can be difficult to adapt yourself during the first month, as it is very intense, the methods used by the professors are also highly effective but difficult to deal with at first. After a month, you are getting used to it, thanks to the high professionalism of the professors.
There is a big struggle with food, especially if you are a vegetarian like me, because Estonians just adore meat. So, either I have to cook for myself, which doesn’t happen often, because of the high workload, or go to the few places where vegetarian dishes are served.
To conclude with good news
Estonia, so to say E-Estonia, has built a digital society, which is why everything is quite easy and time saving. There are lots of E’s which makes your life and communication easier in Estonia: e- health, e-voting, e-governance, e-residency, e-tax, e-police and so on. Seems that everything leads to making everything E in Estonia, is this because Estonians prefer not to communicate with each other face to face? Who knows, maybe, but one thing is clear, this country is an example of a successful innovative country, which streams to reach to the evolution of e-state, where the basic services will be done digitally. Taking into account all that’s mentioned above, it becomes clear that, as an international student, you will constantly face some challenges. You’ll face them everywhere, not only in Tartu, and all these difficulties are the things that prepare the students for the challenges of the tomorrow.
Meline Avagyan (Armenia)
MA in Democracy and Governance
Ksenia Vergelis Photography