Written by Percy Alao
The very first thoughts that cross your mind when you are going to study or live in another country – especially one that is far away from your country of origin or home, with a different culture, society, language and mindset – are: How do I blend in? Will people understand me without misinterpreting me? How should I behave? Will I feel at home? Can I survive the weather? Is the country safe?
These were some of the thoughts that came to my mind as I was about to start my journey at Tallinn University of Technology.
From my perspective, studying abroad is never a smooth ride. If I were to state otherwise, then I would be lying. So, I also had my fair share of challenges studying and living in Estonia. But the secret is not to panic.
What was the exact challenge I had to overcome studying in Estonia?
It’s actually pretty simple. For someone with my tropical background, having grown in a warm and temperate environment, living in one of the coldest countries in the world was bound to be a struggle.
The very first months when I arrived were the hardest because they preceded the winter months. These were very cold periods. However, the thing about our body system is that it adapts fast.
Naturally, if you are pretty used to a cold climate, then living in Estonia wouldn’t be any challenge with regards to the climate. However, this was my own challenge and struggle, especially the first year.
The seco0nd challenge was language. In Estonia, two languages prevail: Estonian and Russian. This is because almost 25% of the population speak Russian or have Russian origins. As a matter of fact, younger pupils in high school and other lower grades are required to take Russian as part of the language selection.
While the issue of language hasn’t been a big problem, because almost everyone speaks English, especially the younger generation, there was still a problem of communication in stores and some other outlets, for example.
The good thing is, the language of Instruction in the university is English, so I had no problem communicating at school. Even if the language wasn’t a big problem, I felt it was important to mention it, and prepare other prospective students.
Nonetheless, I could not have wished to study anywhere else. I am more than happy I chose Estonia and Tallinn University of Technology as my study destination. I have met so many people in only a short time. It has been an overwhelming experience. With regards to my studies, I have been so pleased that I feel I could even proceed with a Ph.D. I mean studying here makes you want to study more. If I had to choose again, I would make the same choice: Estonia and Tallinn University of Technology.