Thoughts on Estonia as a Parent of an International Student

Though I had no knowledge of Estonia when I first started my research, when I started reading about schools in Tallinn I knew that I had to visit. I was surprised to learn about their technological advances, their focus on internet connectivity (including free WiFi throughout Tallinn), e-society, electronic voting and unique cyber-security programs. This from a country that was under Soviet rule until just 1991!

My Visit to Estonia

In November 2015, I took the ferry from Helsinki for a day trip to Tallinn. It’s a short two hour ride with several trips offered a day. The ship was surprisingly large and comfortable. With this easy commute, many in Helsinki think of Tallinn as their own suburb. The much lower price tag for shopping, food, and nightlife makes it a popular trip for people in Finland.

City Architecture

The contrast of old and new throughout the city is striking. It is common to see a modern building being constructed right behind, or next to, a beautiful old building. The medieval architecture and character is preserved in the Old Town part of the city, yet right outside of the old town city gates are plenty of modern dining and shopping options, including shopping malls. The streets around the town square in Old Town are filled with costumed restaurant staff trying to lure tourists in to eat, but an exploration of the side streets is a really incredible experience. I found cool architecture features, cafes, shops selling things like handmade felt hats, and really quirky places as well. For example, I happened upon this place that is on Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 weird bars, called the DM bar. The DM, of course, stands for “Depeche Mode”. It was opened by Depeche Mode fans in 1999 and has had visits (social, not performing) from the band and other celebrities.

Cultural Nuances

An admissions director in Tallinn told me that, in contrast to the Danes, Estonians don’t smile unless they have a reason to. I get that, and appreciate it. She said that international students often misjudge this reserved behavior for grouchiness and think it means that their professors don’t like them. She told me that, with time, they recognize that this is not the case. However, if you would like to experience true grouchiness from your professor, just arrive late to class. Estonians are known for valuing punctuality!

Learn more about Estonia in our podcast episode: Affordable, English-Taught Degrees in Estonia

Read further about my visit to this country, and other Baltic nations in my blog post: What I Learned About College in the Baltic Countries

Here’s what one of our members had to say about Estonia:

“My son is completing his first semester at the University of Tartu in Estonia. He absolutely loves the school, the city and the country. He found the school through Beyond the States and chose it because it had a biology and robotics combined major and is highly ranked. If anyone has been thinking about Tartu, we would highly recommend it. It is a hidden gem.” –Joel

Similar Posts