Just as a full disclosure, what I’m about to share with you is coming from my personal experiences with living in Tartu for the last 3 months. It also comes from the perspective of someone arriving in Estonia from the Southeastern United States.

1. Finding part-time work is not as easy as it seems

In the months leading up to my arrival in Tartu, I, just as you are now, was reading blogs and trying to find as much information as possible about my new home for the next two years. I was particularly curious about finding work so I could sustain myself while studying. All the sources I read said that finding work was possible and that it would almost be easy to get a job.

The boy was that wrong. Now, wait, I’m not saying they were lying, because they definitely were not. There are jobs in Tartu. The problem is that there are very few part-time jobs to be found which are suitable for the average university student. To clear up any confusion, this is just from looking at job boards and doesn’t include any work that may come from connections you make once you get here.

My advice? Be sure to plan accordingly. If you plan on coming here with a small amount of cash with the hopes of quickly finding a job, you just might run out of money first!

2. The weather can be unpredictable

So here’s another one I got wrong. Oops!Coming from the Southeastern United States I’m way too familiar with unpredictable weather. I was hoping that the weather would be a little bit more stable. You know, gradually get colder, then gradually get warmer with no funny business. Nope! The three months I have spent here have taught me the value of being prepared for anything. Had a warm couple of days? Cool! Better enjoy it because it will get freezing overnight then, a few days later, will be nice and warm again. Oh, and the rain…. Just always have a jacket or umbrella ready, because you never know when it might start raining.

3. Crosswalks are weird

So from my part of the world, we have sidewalks, and crosswalks, and pedestrian lights telling us when to cross the street. We just never pay attention to them or use the crosswalk at all. So coming to Estonia, where people are very much into following the rules, it constantly throws me off to wait at the pedestrian light to cross the street when no cars are coming. Even more perplexing are the times when it seems to be acceptable to cross while the pedestrian light is red, and other times when it’s not. I have yet to figure it out: for now, I just follow the lead of the other people crossing.

4. Late nights are later than what you might think

It’s Friday night, you’re done with your week, and you can’t wait to go out with your friends to have a good time and relax. I believe that desire is universal no matter where you go, and it typically is going to lead to a late night. Back in the Southeastern United States, a late night ends at 2:00 a.m., and is signified by the bar kicking you out along with your friends. Well, you won’t have to worry about the bars kicking you out here. I have already had several nights where time slips by, nobody working at the bar says or does anything, and the next thing you know, it’s 5:00 a.m. This is a common thing too! Let me tell you, my body wasn’t ready for it. I would definitely recommend taking a nap before going out with friends.

5.The Mcdonald’s Ice Cream Machine isn’t broken

So I’m not entirely sure if this is just an American thing, but finding a McDonald’s with a working ice cream machine is like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. It’s extraordinarily rare, and always an event worth celebrating! That being said, I still try to avoid eating there if at all possible. Hesburger and Fasters are equally good options and are (slightly) less homogenous and broadly-spanning fast food chains.

These are just some things I noticed from my short time in Tartu, I hope you will take them to heart and be prepared for the day you arrive!