People imagine universities to be calm, laid-back and lazy. But not our University of Tartu. A person studying here knows the level of contribution a student has to make in terms of time and effort to succeed in their studies. Studying can be rigorous, and for a person like me who is always taking more than 48 credits in a semester, it can be intense. Nonetheless, I admire the university’s approach to establishing a continual learning process, and it has really helped me grapple subjects which I would have passed otherwise. But when all is said and done, sometimes you just need to find peace, and peace for me is traveling. With this blog, I would like to lay down my recent traveling experiences and motivate each student to take the opportunity to travel abroad and study at the same time.

Instance 1: Hacking Oslo

With the start of the semester, I always look for opportunities that come with it. As an active hackathon participant, I got to know that Garage48 (a famous organization in Estonia which conducts hackathons, among other things) is organizing its first hackathon in the Nordics, in Norway, namely, Garage48 Impact Hackathon. Scandinavia has always been a dreamy place for me to travel, so I applied for it with no delay. They selected about 20 participants from Estonia for a fully paid trip to Norway, and I was one of them. At the end of September, we took off from a rainy Tallinn to a windy Oslo. With a literal cold welcome, the next thing we observed was the exorbitant prices. Luckily enough, we didn’t need to spend a lot. The event was very fruitful, with a lot of discussion of ideas relating to making a positive impact on the world. My team won the audience favorite award! Outside the event, I walked around Oslo night and day. It was nice and cozy. Oslo streets look like roller-coasters in motion, as there are several ups and downs. I think this energizes the life there in a way. I came back to Tartu with a weekend boost of new friendships, airports, and impactful ideas.

Instance 2: A rare sunny St. Petersberg

ESN (Erasmus Student Network) conducts trips for students of Tartu to go abroad: namely, to St. Petersburg, Russia, and Lapland (in Finland). As part of the ESN family, I was selected to be a group leader for the trip to St. Petersberg. Russia has always been close to my heart. For me, it’s the fusion of the West and the East. I have been to Russia in 2014 and 2016, this is a lucky coincidence that I went to travel again in 2018, making my return to the city a definite 2-year pattern. After a bus from Tartu to Tallinn, we took a cruise from Tallinn to Helsinki, where we finally boarded the cruise ‘M/s Princess Anastasia’. Entering the cruise, I had even stronger back to Russia vibes with such a vintage looking ship. The cruise was great, and soon we were in the beautiful city. Lucky for us, it was sunny, one of the rarest of rare occasions. We definitely enjoyed our 3 days with the grandeur of Russian royalty via Hermitage museums and exotic looking buildings. Looking at a cold Venice, the city exceeds anyone’s expectations. I wish everyone could visit it at least once in their lives. Also, I hope it doesn’t take me 2 years to return to Russia once more!

Instance 3: A difficult, but rewarding, travel experience – India

Diwali is the ‘Festival of Lights’ and is one of the most celebrated festivals in India. Being a festival for family, such as Christmas for the Western world, I wanted to celebrate it with my family in India. Last year, I organized an event of Diwali in Tartu, but this time, I felt like it was time for me to return. Therefore, I planned to surprise my parents on the occasion. Planning with my sister, I booked my tickets way in advance in the summer. At the start of November, I was ready to fly. It took me 3 planes, 1 bus, 1 long-distance taxi and 12 hours of layover time to reach my sister and our dog. Few people would expect snow in India, but India does have everything. I went to the Himalayan wonderland of Ladakh. My dog was as happy to see me as I was. Moments are priceless and I did make some timeless moments as well. Then, I flew to my home city, Chandigarh, where my parents were expecting my sister to come, but I was there as well to give them a happy surprise. In the end, I had a great time with my family and attending the festival too. Coming back to Tartu, with such intense traveling and environmental changes, I was in shock for almost a night. The culture and environment are so different that one might think that the other one is just a dream.

Overall, one thing to note in all of these instances is that I took my studies with me. Homework doesn’t wait for you to rest: I enjoyed myself during the day and studied at night. Everything is possible if you have the passion and will to do it. Traveling in the middle of the semester might not be recommended, but if you can manage yourself productively, you can recommend it to yourself and make it an experience to remember.