Moving from the city’s jungle to the serene town

Having born and grown up in a town that has the same population as Tallinn, I was counting days when I, finally, would escape from the city and move to a bigger one, so hardly could I have even imagined living in a smaller place than mine. For four years of studying in the metropolis, I got used to broad variety of choice anything that you can or cannot imagine; ability to freely express yourself; myriad of opportunities; and an ongoing flow of events. Hardly could I daresay I could change the benefits of my eventful life in Kyiv to a peaceful one in a small townlet.

Ironically, four months ago I skipped from the capital which population is bigger than the general population of Tallinn to the town that is three times smaller than the city I was born. Was I skeptical about this virtue? Definitely! Do I regret this decision? Not at all! Eventually, Tartu has enchanted me with its’ severity and beauty. Above all, I discovered that living in tiny Tartu could be not less exciting, even more, full of advantages.

1. Small distances

Although my first impression about the Tartu’s infrastructure was, to put it mildly, very critical; I realized that, actually, there is no need for a bus as you could reach main destinations in 10-20 minutes just walking. Indeed, Tartu is very friendly to pedestrians. Sometimes I have a feeling that it’s more efficient to go on foot than take a bus. Moreover, the city is literally captured by parks, so I always enjoy my trip to the campus as I can revel while looking at a beautiful landscape and breath fresh air. As a bonus, some doctors claim that we have to walk at least 30 minutes per day, so it turns to be a pretty healthy habit too.

2. International city

Notoriously, small cities are not friendly to the foreigners. Undoubtedly, everyone had an experience of receiving a cold shoulder from the towners or feeling alienated at a new place. It’s a small community that shares common values and traditions of their city’s arrangement where they reluctantly let any stranger in. However, that’s not an issue you may suffer from in Tartu. Firstly, I don’t usually have any problems with finding a common language with locals. Despite a well-prevailed notion of Estonians as gloomy and unfriendly people, I met only cheerful and friendly Estonians who were enthusiastic enough to talk to me. I think that Estonians are underestimated: they could be warm-hearted; surprisingly, chatty and very helpful. Secondly, Tartu is a students’ city and it gathers together youth from all over the world. Sometimes I have a feeling that I hear English speech more often than Estonian. That’s why Tartu gives you a boundless opportunity to find your soulmate from the other part of our planet. Interestingly, not only you could experience common feelings like homesick, cultural shock and else; but also it’s better not to lose a cast to broaden your view and knowledge about other cultures. I find it very valuable!

3. A flawless combination of harmony and madness

Tartu is, indeed, a very tranquil town. That creates a suitable environment where you can fully deep into your studying and investigation. Nothing, actually, could distract you here. There is no disturbing noise that usually fills up big cities. There are a lot of parks where you can have a rest. At the same time, the city is vibrant with academic and entertaining life. There are plenty of events going on every day, starting from a conference at the Skytte institute, for instance, and ending with Comedy Estonia at Möku. I realized that I have used more chances in Tartu to enhance my knowledge and skill as well as having fun that I didn’t have much back to my life before. Odd, but here I have, finally, found a formula in good combination of spending time on everything I need and want.

4. Feeling safe

When I was asking a man for help in Berlin, he, eventually, scrolled me for being so reckless. He was, sincerely, worried about me traveling in Berlin completely alone, at midnight, with my phone turned off. At that moment, I realized that I got used to the security that Tartu offers me. I absolutely forgot about a potential danger that exists in other cities. Indeed, here I can walk on my own at any time; wear whatever I want; have no fear of getting into trouble. Never did I have this feeling in Kyiv, so now I do really value an opportunity to be free and secured in Tartu.

5. Feeling home

I have already nourished some habits. For instance, I meet with friends near the Kissing fountain, order cacao at Säde, study at the library with groupmates, go to 3-euro cinema to Tasku, walk along the promenade. I found out that living in Tartu has become such a routine for me as I have been living here for ages. Although I really miss my home and I am looking forward to visiting my beloved home-city, I am really accustomed to those things I gained in Tartu, that now I feel like at home here.

Anastasiia Popova (Ukraine)
MA in Democracy and Governance