If Where the Wild Things Are took hold of your imagination and inspired fantasies of trees sprouting from your bedposts, Estonian universities may very well be the education of your dreams. It’s one of Europe’s least crowded countries, where traces of Viking and medieval culture still linger among the hunting trails of lynxes, bears, wolves, and fox. Estonians take pride in their rugged past, yet are always pushing the envelope of what can be achieved with technology. With low living costs, a rapidly growing economy, and world-class universities, there’s no better place to get your degree abroad.
Estonia is a small Baltic country that holds the vital position between Central Europe, Scandinavia, and Eastern Russia. Its mainland is over 50% forest and many of its 1500 islands are complete wilderness. It may be a small population, but their impact on the world has been anything but; these innovative people invented Skype, and are also the first to successfully create a secure online voting system. What’s more, you can study in Estonia in English!
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and one of the most popular cities for international students. Akin to Silicon Valley, it’s technology-friendly and has the highest number of startups per head of population in Europe. People flock to the city to rub shoulders with some of the hottest entrepreneurs in the field, and to hopefully contribute to a community that was named among the world’s seven most intelligent in 2013. You can also see one of Europe’s best protected medieval towns in the intact “Old Town” in the center of the city.
Tartu is the second largest city in Estonia and houses the oldest and most renowned university in the country, the University of Tartu. The high student population begs the nickname “City of Youth,” and in fact the whole urban area can often feel like one big campus. It is more Estonian in many ways than Tallinn, though it draws considerably less tourism and instead focuses on maintaining its status as intellectual center of the country. There are a number of colleges in Estonia to choose from here.
Narva is Estonia’s third largest city and sits along the Narva River on the border with Russia. The city is dominated by a 15th century castle and gives off a feel of Soviet-style grittiness, helped by the fact that 82% of the population is Russian. It’s a great place to be if Russian language or culture is the focus of your academics.
Estonia holds a long and proud tradition of academic excellence. They founded their first university in 1632 and haven’t let up since; currently there are more than 150 internationally-recognized degree programs offered to students from around the world. Estonian universities are primarily autonomous, which fosters competition that results in more diverse programs, specialized admission tests, and well-prepared and motivated students. Even more, you can find universities in Estonia with free tuition.
Undergraduate programs last three to six years and offer students the chance to study a huge range of topics, the most popular being Computer Science, Finance, and Tourism. Masters programs require an additional two years and a completed Bachelor’s degree. Most advanced degrees are training courses in specialized work, where students work closely with professors to research and develop new material or techniques.
Estonian is easily one of the most challenging languages out there, and while it is required for citizenship and enforced by a Harry Potter-esque Language Inspectorate, fear not! A large percentage of the classes are taught in English, and this number is growing every year. If you’re worried, be proactive in finding a university that will allow you to study in Estonia in English.
The bar may be set high, but this is a country that has literally made a sport out of swinging over them (kiiking, look it up!). You’re in good hands.
Cost of living in Estonia is comparable to that of other Western European nations. A cappuccino might be 2-3€, a meal out10-15€, and a movie ticket about 7€. A monthly bus pass is 16€. Degree programs in Estonia might be anywhere from 1500€ to 5000€ for a semester depending on area of study or between 3-6000€ a year for a Masters. This is the same price for local and international students. For those of you who speak Estonian you’re in luck— a fee is charged for most English-taught courses but Estonian-taught ones are free. Tore!
The majority of students set up camp in university-provided dorms while attending colleges in Estonia. Typically this will be in the vein of a furnished apartment with two bedrooms of two people each and a shared kitchen and bathroom. This arrangement has the advantage of connecting you with fellow students and a support network if academics are challenging.For a bit extra some students opt for a private apartment in the city, which, while more independent, can offer a first row seat to some of the songs and festivals that happen regularly in the city.
If you could throw stones and talk to hedgehogs, Estonians would hail you as the next Kalevipoeg and lay out the red carpet into their country. Unfortunately those (admittedly, extremely handy) powers are reserved for the select few, namely the hero giant of their most beloved epic. The mere human must apply for a temporary residence permit if they wish to study in Estonia. This should be done within one month of arriving in Estonia. Be sure to check our embassy directory for updated, country-specific information.
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Bigger may be better when it comes to vastlakukkel, the delicious pastry, but not when you want to see as much of a country as cheaply as possible. Estonia’s small size means distances are short and you can explore to your heart’s content. If you’re attending Estonian universities in winter, take advantage of the deep freezes that create temporary roads out to the islands and see the setting from whence the majority of their legends and folklore come.
Estonia is second only to Ireland for quantity and quality of song, stories, and legends, and understanding them gives you insight into how this country was able to rebuild themselves after Communist rule. Once strictly controlled by Russia, Estonia now ranks number one in the Freedom in the World report and second for the biggest internet freedom in the world.