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Erasmus Experience in Tallinn, Estonia by Barbara

Published by Barbara Fonseca — 4 years ago

1 Tags: Erasmus experiences Tallinn, Tallinn, Estonia


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Why did you choose to go to Tallinn, Estonia?

I decided to go to Tallinn because I believe Erasmus is a good opportunity to experience a new country and its costums and it was the only country in the list that had the most Nordic culture. Since I've been fascinated by it and wanted something very different from Portugal, I thought why not?

How long is the scholarship? How much money do you receive to help you with living costs?

Well... It's supposed to be about 5 months. I only receive 200€/month. It's not much but it's possible to pay at least the rent + utilities. But it's been stressing because I was promised to have 80% of the money in the beginning of the mobility, and almost 4 months passed and I still haven't seen a cent. However, it seems to be a problem of my school or country, because all of my flatmates already have it. I'm just saying, if you're from Portugal, be ready... but you already know how things work there.

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What is the student lifestyle like in Tallinn?

It's rather nice, actually. You're able to choose your own subjects and when doing so, you can actually see when are the classes taking place. And I was so scared in the beginning, I had to choose 9 courses to fulfill the credits, but 3 of the courses finished in the middle of the semester, some last for 1 entire week, others are once a week for 2 or 3 weeks. So I'd say in terms of classes, you can be pretty free, I'm now in the 2nd half of the semester, with classes from Wednesday to friday. Other than that, there are some parties, some trips, some activities... You know, typical Erasmus stuff.

Would you recommend the city and the University of Tallinn to other students?

Well yes. It actually depends on the person. It's nice if you like to travel a lot; for example, you could go to Russia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, have ferries to Denmark, Sweden, Tartu. It's very calm city... though I thought Portugal was rather quite. Tallinn is even more! If you're fascinated by medieval times, you will love old town. There are some really nice green areas as well. Get an Estonian ID card and you will get around the city for free... It's not a big city though, it's better to walk. I feel really safe here. People told me about the Russians and some "don't go there" places, but at least it's ok to go from a bar to your place all by yourself at night. And Tallinn university is really nice. Most of my classes took place in BFM, though they have good conditions, lots of material available (you can use it at home), lessons are given in English and, if not, most of the teachers know how to speak basic English so they will be able to translate what they're saying even if it's in the end. The university also has a cinema, a vegetarian canteen, and free WiFi almost everywhere!

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What is the food like?

Since I'm don't eat meat, I can't tell much about the main dishes per se, but they have great chocolate (kalev, I'm going to miss you so much), nice cakes... I'm used to go to the small groceries in my home country and to have lots of different kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables, but most of them here are imported, in the beginning it might feel weird, but you'll get used to it. If you want to drink normal water: pay attention when you're picking your bottle, make sure it says still or drinking water, otherwise you'll be drinking some kind of weird salty sprinkled water. The way they sell fish is really weird, it seems like you have to buy it already fried or something, eventhough I have flatmates who eat meat they never dared to buy fish, but hey, you can try it!

Did it cost you to find your accommodation in Tallinn?

Yes, at least on the internet. Most of people wanted someone who could stay for the whole year and we were 4 students (6 in the end) and they don't show a big interest on renting the apartment because they think we're going to ruin something, have lots of parties and make noise. But in person is different, once some of us arrived here, we started actually talking to them in person and out of nowhere, we had to decide in which apartment we wanted to stay.

If you're looking on the internet (city24 or kV. we), the 1st rent may be quite pricy. I'd say that you could look for Facebook groups, there are 2 or 3 where people ask and announce some nice places, but most of them are in Estonian. They speak English tho. But be careful with the trolls who just want to steal money from you. You have some dormitories if you don't want to look for a house. You can stay in an hostel, since there are at least 2 student friendly hostels (euphoria and red emperor), try couchsurfing, find someone willing to share a room/place or that person might know someone. At least you can stay with them in the beginning while looking for a place to stay.

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How much does it cost to live in Tallinn?

It's not that expensive. I'm sharing an apartment with other 5 people right in Old Town and I'm paying 200€/month... And it's winter time. But there are cheaper places where you can live with just one or two more people, you just need to look for it. The food is rather affordable as well, depends on the market you're going. You don't have to pay for transportation.

There are at least 3 second-hand shops near the university (sometimes they make everything for 1€, so if you need a winter jacket or something like that, just go there). Cinema and performances are not that expensive either. Maybe you want to get a student card, but I never had it and I never needed one (unless in the contemporary art museum in Helsinki). I was able to take dance classes for 25€/month, twice a week. It's a rather cheap place, that's why the scholarship money isn't that much. There are some bus company promotions as well, so don't be surprised if you pay 3€ to go to Riga, for example.

Is the language easy to get to grips with? Are there language courses available at the University?

It's a very hard language, I read Finnish is probably the hardest language for English speakers to learn, and Estonian is very similar. Before coming here, I was using memrise to learn the basics, and it helped me a bit. But there's a language course in August and a flatmate who took that course is able to go to the kiosk and ask for tobacco, I guess it helps with something. And there's another course during Autumn semester, for beginners. Most people know how to speak English or Russian. And if you need to read the food labels, there are some words that can be understood.

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What's the easiest or most economical way to travel to Tallinn from your city?

I'm still trying to figure that out. I'm from porto and I had to fly from Lisbon to get a cheaper price. Many people travel from their countries to Riga and then get on another plane or bus to Tallinn. Depending on the time of the year, I think it's possible to do Tallinn - London - Porto for a very affordable price. It's the most economical and easiest way, I think, since there's no direct flight and that way you won't have to visit three airports on the same day... But you might have to spend the night there.

Where would you recommend to go on a night out in Tallinn?

Protest, Rock Cafe, Tapper, Kelm, Telliskivi are my favourite places until now. If you're into pubs/bars and something more alternative and not so much into clubs, I think you're going to like these ones.

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And for eating? Can you recommend some good restaurants in Tallinn?

GO TO KOMPRESPOR! There you will find huge and varied pancakes at affordable prices.

Other than that, I can't say much more, I believe the majority of the people would like to eat a nice steak or burger. I'm sorry!

What good cultural sites are there to visit?

I recommend visiting the old town, its museums, galleries and churches (I'm not a religious person, but it was fascinating); Kadriog, and the Kiek in the Kok Museum...

You might not be in the mood to enter, but at least you'll have a good laugh when you see the name; the garden is really nice as well. Added to this, I recommend going to Linahall, the Russian prison near Linahall, and Rummu (similar to a beach, it's one of the most beautiful places I've seen here).

In fact, if you go to the forest, you will see that there are always some huts where you can stay for free in the night. Make sure to take some food and blankets with you, and someone who knows how to make fire, especially if you go on winter). Finally, I recommend visiting Telliskivi, but, in general, I'd just say "explore". It's not a big city, but there are lots of things to discover.

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Is there any other advice that you could give to students going to Tallinn in the future?

Take this in consideration: if you're from a country similar to Portugal and considering to come here for the whole year or the autumn semester, forget about the sun, and the day light and the "nice weather". It was really confusing for me since the clock changed. I'm a rain and cold and grey weather lover, but there's not enough vitamin D and you might feel a bit lost.

Estonian people are not easy to make friends with, not because they're rude, but they're very reserved people, so the lady in the supermarket might not smile at you or it might be hard to start a conversation with them. Think very well if you want to come alone or with a friend(s). Make your own Erasmus experience. Most of the people think Erasmus is drinking, partying and having sex all the time. If you're into that, just do it, but if not, don't be afraid of doing something else.

I'm writing this because the amount of people who stop being themselves just because they're afraid of not fitting in or being alone is ridiculous and I know people who did that and regretted. If you don't want to listen to "camisa negra" all night, go somewhere else, you will find someone who likes the same stuff as you do. If you want to do some volunteering work, do so, the university will take you to a shelter, for example. You're here to have fun, to learn about a new country, so relax, go with the flow and enjoy it! However, at least try to remember you also have toattend classes.


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Comments (1 comments)

  • Laura Djgr 2 years ago

    Hi Barbara

    I just got accapted to the Estonian Academy of arts in Tallinn for the upcoming semester and loved to read your experience. Everyone is talking about ESN, parties and clubs when they talk about erasmus experience but it's so nice to read about more alternative pubs, to hear that there are galleries, to read about cinema and performances, the possibility to take dance classes or volunteer in a shelter... Thanks!
    Also, is it difficult to live in Tallinn as a vegetarian? I'm eating vegan food here and would love to continue it there too.

    Thank you so much,
    Kind regads
    Laura


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