Alisa in Estonia

Field of study in Wageningen: International Land and Water Management
Study period exchange: 21/01/2019 until 17/06/2019
Country (exchange): Estonia
City (exchange): Tartu
University (exchange): Estonian University of Life Sciences
Faculty (exchange): Landscape architecture

2. Motivation for exchange

Why did you choose to go on study exchange?

Honestly, I was not the kind of student who said: I want to go on exchange and the further away the better. I prefered staying in Europe, but my top three (Estonia, Norway and Hungary) resulted from the courses that these universities offered compared to others I found in the Netherlands.
What is the reason you chose for this country/university?

I had a look at all partner universities, also these that are not meant for tourism, like Tartu, Estonia. However, the courses sounded so interesting to me that I still tried to get in there. (If there are still some free spots left after giving the spots away to the people from the studies for whom it is an option, you might get it.) There is no gurantee of course, but you can try.

3. Accessibility to reach destination

Do you have any tips to reach your exchange destination?

I went by bus (Ecolines) from Germany via Riga to Tartu. Yes, I know it takes a while. After 28 hours I reached Riga, where I spend two nights and then continued with LuxExpress to Tartu. If you want to go my bus as well, I would suggest to make one more stop before Riga.
On the way back I flew from Tallinn. There is a direct bus connection between Tartu and the Airport, which goes every 30min and costs only 9€.

4. University and studying

Could you provide some general information about the followed courses?

How is the study formalized?

For Landscape Architecture, Bachelor students are allowed to take master courses, because the Bachelor in landscape architecture is in Estonian. The good thing was, that nearly all my courses were first year master courses, so I entered the class of ~25 people before they all knew each other. Therefore, it was easy to be part of the class. Examination: It differs per subject, but I mainly had presentations or had to hand in an essay. The workload really differed per subject. They also work with a blackboard- like platform called Ois. There you can check your mails, find the Course material, timetable, see for which courses you are registered, etc.

What is the culture of the university?

The best tip is: TAKE PART IN THE INTRODUCTION WEEK!!!! Because there you will get to know all foreign students of all departments. It was really impressive how many nationalities we were! 43! After the introduction week, you just greeted everybody when you met them in torn or in the supermarket, even though you don’t remember their names. Engagement with locals… From what I experienced Estonians are quite shy and don’t speak a lot with people they don’t know. I had some Estonians in nearly all my classes, but didn’t had a lot of contact besides the groupworks. So don’t expect that they are really interrested in internationals, so if you want to learn more about their culture etc, you should take initiative and start talking. Nevertheless, almost all Estonians are really helpfull and nice if you ask them something! One example herefore is the Exchange coordinator Karoli. She answered emails mostly within a few hours and gave a feeling of being welcome. She also gave helpful advise.

What does the university offer the student additionally?

The university has 3 cafeterias (Forestry Building, Technik Building and main Building). At all of them you get the same meals of the day, so you can just go to the closed. There are always about 4 different options to choose from, of which one is vegetarian. The meals are between 1,50€ and 2,80€. Additionally, there are a lot of Sport facilities provided, like beachvolleyballfields, bouldering walls, cross-country skiing tracks, frisbee golf, BMX park, skatepark, tennispitch, Parkour and Workout possibilities in the park on the way to the river. They are all in perfect condition! For the rainy period, you can get a Sports Card to participate in the Courses offered in the sporthall which is located on the campus. If you want to take part always in the same course you should get the sportscard. However, if you want to try out multiple courses, you should consider doing the Physical Education course.


 What are the possibilities for housing?

Most internationals live in torn. That makes it easy to just meet up with friends. You do not even have to leave the building. Torn is the high building directly on the campus. The supermarket is just around the corner and the university buildings are just across the street. To the city center it is about half an hour walking, but you get used to it really fast. Even during the nigth you feel safe on that way and in generell in Estonia. Otherwise, there is also a bus. For all Exchange students they gurantee a spot in torn. You have to apply for a room, which are mainly shared rooms with one other person.  There is also the option that you pay for both beds, so that you have a single room. Furthermore, you can choose between a flat of 4 or 8 people. The only problem is that you don’t know who is living with you before you actually move in. That can end up well, but doesn’t have to.

What is the culture of the country like?

If you like Hagelslag, you should know that you cannot buy it there! The biggest difference were the people. Most of them are really quite and it may even happen that you don’t talk a word with some flatmates or classmates. However, if you take initiative and start talking, you will notice that they are often really nice people.

Could you give a general price indication of the place of residence compared to living in Wageningen?

If you like Hagelslag, you should know that you cannot buy it there! The biggest difference were the people. Most of them are really quite and it may even happen that you don’t talk a word with some flatmates or classmates. However, if you take initiative and start talking, you will notice that they are often really nice people.

Could you give some information about public transport infrastructure?

I don’t know if you know it already, but over-land busses to the closest villages are for free! These will bring you to neighbouring villages like Otepää, Elva and Alatskivi. For the busses inside town, you have to pay. Therefore, you need to buy the Tartu bussikaart for 2€ and load money on it. Then you only have to scan your ticket when you enter the bus; NOT when you step out. If you have to change busses, you have to scan the card again, when you enter the second bus. Each busride costs about 80ct.
If you plan to explore the country, it is best to make use of the LuxExpress busses. These will bring you to Tallinn, Narva, Riga,… for a very cheap price. The buses are modern and even have a flatscreen infront of each seat. You buy the tickets for this bus online on their webside. Don’t forget to tick the box that you are under 26 (if that is the case) to get student discount. There is also a busstop on the campus called Tartu Näitused, where every second bus from Tallinn stops as well.

6. Free time

What are must-sees in the area? 

Estonia is basically forest and wetland. So what you can definetly do is hiking in the nature. As I already said is that the over-land busses are free. So you can take these to come to areas nearby. With these I have been to Alatskivi (Castle and hiking trail around lake), Elva (nice trail with wooden skulptures) and a place near Polva. With the LuxExpress I visited Tallinn and Riga. From Tallinn you can take a frequently going ferry to Helsinki. Furthermore, Viljandi is a beautiful village with some ruins and Pärnu is an old seaside resort. Saarema is interresting to visit as well, because its landscape is slightly different, compared to the rest of the country. Nevertheless, don’t forget to visit places in Tartu as well.

What does not appear in the travel guide, but is worth a visit?

Interresting to know is that the RMK build up some huts in the middle of the nature, in which you can stay for free in most of the time. Often there is a fireplace and free firewood nearby.For the rest just check out the Visit Estonia homepage and compare it with the buswebsite ( By the way, one important word to know is tasuta, which means free. Furthermore, ESN offers some trips as well for example to Lapland, Saarema and St. Petersburg.

Do you have general tips and tricks about leisure time?

My general recommendation is: ENJOY your time! So explore the country and meet a lot of new people! The time passes by faster than you want.

7.Challenges & best moment abroad

 What was a challenge you have experienced?

I think the biggest challenge was the language, as it was the first country I was living in, where I didn’t speak the native language. So the first day, really made me feel like: You have to learn Estonian as fast as possible! The day of arrival, I first had to try to understand the busdriver who could only speak Russian. Then I arrived in Tartu and the bus driver there could also not speak English. Somehow, I made it then to Torn, where the woman at the reception couldn’t speak English either (there are some who speak English and some who don’t). Luckily, there was somebody who could translate. Later in the supermarket, I was searching for something, but the lady I asked couldn’t speak English either, but she called another employee who could help out. So I always managed it somehow, but speaking Estonian makes it sooo much easier.

What was your best memory abroad?

Puh, that is hard to tell. I had such a perfect time over there! The subjects were really interresting and my classmates were really nice and helpful. One strange thing that I discovered which became a joke for us, is that you cannot swim in Estonian Waters. The Peisi lake is really flat. When you try to swim in the sea in Pärnu, it was also quite flat and even more flat on Saarema. Therefore, we ended up going iceswimming in the Emajögi. I didn’t expected that I will end up like this. Furthermore, all the trips were really amazing! So make also the most of the time and create an unforgetable experience, which you will always keep in good memories.