How I Survived Winter in Tartu – Kateryna (Ukraine)
I remember myself a year ago: looking at the range of universities around Europe, wondering which one to put as the first priority. There it was: University of Tartu, so modern, so international, highly ranked and loved by its students. It was perfect in all aspects but one – the location.
When I first googled Tartu, I thought to myself, “Alright, it’s not THAT far north, the winter cannot be bad”. On top of that, I am Ukrainian so I am not easily scared by 2 meters of snow. Yet, reading all the stories on the Internet on how depressed you feel from roughly November to April, I was getting more and more frightened by what happens to Estonia’s inhabitants when winter comes.
Here I am a year after, have been living in Estonia for 6 months; and, since it is already March, I can proudly say that I have survived the winter. At least, the calendar one. This year, we had no snow but the continuous darkness was here shining bright
pun intended. That said, if you are having doubts about Estonia just like I did a year ago, sit back and listen (well, read).
The first month of winter must have been my favourite in Tartu if I dare to nominate a favorite winter month. December is when it is absolutely impossible to get yourself out of bed to get to a 9 am lecture because the day is very short. The sun rises at around 9 am and goes down at 3:30 pm. The only thing that keeps motivating you is that unless you get to the lecture, you might fail the upcoming exam. Yet, this month is my favourite for one obvious reason: Christmas spirit. Tartu transforms with Christmas, but the best thing is that Tallinn and Riga are very close too, so you can appreciate and compare Christmas lights in at least three cities in one month. While you are doing that and trying to get yourself through exams, December is finished. Not scary yet, huh?
Pro-tip for December: travel around for Christmas markets
January is much appreciated by the students, especially by those who have dealt with all their exams in December. Officially, we have one week of winter break at UT, and it’s the first week of February. However, if you plan accordingly and get the most out of your December, you can easily earn more free days (or even weeks) in January. This is when most students travel or go home. I did travel too but found fun things to do in lovely Tartu as well. First of all, the end of January is when the largest business festival in the Baltics, sTARTUp Day is held. This year was no exception, and I have spent two days listening to inspiring speakers from all around the globe. What’s more, you can volunteer at the festival! Secondly, this January was special in some way because a brand new UT building, Delta Centre, was officially opened. It is now home to UT’s Institute of Computer Science, Institute of Mathematics and Statistics, School of Economics and Business Administration and Institute of Technology. And look, January has ended!
Pro-tip for January: attend sTARTUp Day
In February, after having a short break at the beginning, you go back to studies. It may not sound delightful, but I personally have missed the classes. More to that, studying at the Delta Centre boosts the motivation when you already have no more by the end of winter. There is a soothing light at the end of the tunnel though: in February, Estonia celebrates its Independence Day, and this is yet another way to say bye to depression and celebrate. The celebration in Tartu is relatively small (however, involves free cookies!) but you can go to Tallinn to join the Estonians at a bigger party. In addition, this February we had one more fun event, the grand opening of Sandbox in the Delta Centre (yes, we obviously love the openings). Now the students of UT can join an educational programme on product management and design thinking, thus add some fresh knowledge to their spring semester curricula!
Pro-tip for February: celebrate Estonia’s Independence Day
That’s it, we have gotten through the winter months with no loss, with fun things to do in Tartu and Estonia. And right when it feels like you have won this fight, here it comes. It properly snowed the first time this winter on February 26, just a few days before spring. Yet, having survived the calendar winter, how hard can it be to get through the spring one?
In conclusion, the winter in Tartu is tough but bearable, and by no means should stop you from applying. Finish up your application and come to Estonia, we have Christmas markets, business festivals, cool celebrations, and sauna! There always is a sauna. Always.