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Three young people who took part in this year’s Tallinn Summer School are now studying full time degree programme in Tallinn University. They share their stories about Summer School, Tallinn University and Estonia(ns) in general.

How did Tallinn University and Tallinn Summer School first catch your eye? Why did you decide to participate in the Summer School?

Margarita Lebedeva, from Russia, student of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (BA):
I was ten years old when I first visited Tallinn. Since then I have come to see the city every summer and winter. My great-grandparents lived in Mustvee and I have a lot of Estonian friends.
Tallinn Summer School opened Tallinn as a new door for me, so to speak, to discover all the places I had not been to yet. I remember the first thing that caught my was the big university building. As I am from a little town called Pskov, I have never seen such a place before.
My first Summer School was in 2012. There were representatives from Tallinn University in my hometown and they introduced the opportunity. I have always dreamed about studying in Estonia and this was a perfect way to get to know more about Tallinn University.

Domenico Malcangi, from Italy, student of Film Arts (MA) at TU’s Baltic Film and Media School:
I chose Tallinn Summer School because initially I was searching for information about Baltic Film and Media School. I found that there was a summer course in digital filmmaking and this seemed like a good opportunity for me to get to know the film school facilities and more about the Estonian education system, and moreover, have a taste of the Tallinn life.
Also, the price compared to the services offered was worth it, so I just booked the flight.

Mustafa Soysal, from Turkey, student of Studies of Cultures (PhD):
Being a graduate of English philology (Çankaya University in Ankara), I have always been interested in different languages, literature and culture. I feel that it is a never-ending – and the most exciting – part of my field, to delve into different cultures. In this sense, Tallinn Summer School was a means through which I started to explore a new culture from a closer perspective.
While looking for Summer Schools abroad, I just happened to come across Tallinn University and Summer School on the website of Turkish Ministry of Education. I was lucky to be granted a scholarship of bilateral agreement in 2009. Nothing was the same after that.

What were your impressions from the Summer School and from the University? Could you compare it with other summer schools?

Margarita: I really liked the atmosphere during the Summer School, and I realised that I want to stay here. From the first day of Summer School I have been meeting all these amazing people. I have to say that our English lessons were really good because of how professional the teacher was. Initially I had problems with English but after three weeks I even started to think in English! It was the best way to spend my summer because of how useful it all was, plus the fun. We had a lot of cultural events and these international parties are always the most interesting ones. During the last Summer School my friend asked me to sing a song in Russian, but I was shy and did not want to. My friend encouraged me to give it a try anyway, and after that I am sure that I can perform in front of an audience anytime. I discovered something new in myself.

Domenico: I liked the how the summer course was organised from the very beginning. Everything was planned and designed to make the students feel comfortable. And I found the staff nice and helpful in every way. The atmosphere amongst the people and students was great. My course was hard-working, with a great lecturer and it proved to be incredibly useful, as I had the opportunity to show my first short movie in the cinema.

Mustafa: Tallinn Summer School is a game-changer, at least it has been for me. It is organised in such a professional way that you feel that you are in the right place to exist in all means. There is a wide range of courses from languages to social sciences, which makes the decision of which course to choose a bit difficult, as one might want to sign up for more than one at the same time! To be blunt, Summer School is the microcosm of Tallinn University. Moreover, it is reassuring to know that the Summer School is organised by an internationally-recognised, prestigious university.

What made you to choose Tallinn University for your degree studies? What makes the curriculum you are studying at TLU special?

Margarita: While enjoying every second of Summer School, I also found a speciality from Tallinn University. Dimitri (Dimitri Mironov, Director of Catherine’s College) told me about liberal arts and social science, and now I am studying in English as I always dreamed. Of course it is bit hard for me but it is a challenge. Every day, every lesson is interesting for me.

Domenico: It is also thanks to the creative and exciting atmosphere that I lived in during the course, that I decided to apply for a Master degree. But I can’t forget that I have found some amazing people that have made me feel that this was the right choice.
In the beginning, the MA curriculum was interesting because even when divided according to their different specialities, everyone seemed to be eager to gain knowledge in all the other fields as well (cinematography, directing, editing etc) and turn out as perfect contemporary filmmakers.

Mustafa: It took me three Summer Schools to start my degree studies in Tallinn University. Tallinn Summer School gave me an overall impression towards the education provided in the university and life in Tallinn, as well as the main characteristics of the nation. In this sense, if it hadn’t been for the success of the Summer School, I wouldn’t be here today. (By the way, I shall state my special thanks to Ms Birgit Kirsimägi, the project manager of Summer School, and her great team.) As for the department, the curriculum I am involved in, Studies of Cultures, has a strong academic structure in the sense that it supports many different areas of specialisations, as the department consists of interdisciplinary areas. With this regard, my academic research area is supported by the department of Studies of Cultures in Tallinn University. Besides, studying in a university which is highlighted by its reputation for being quite international sounds highly prestigious regarding my future career.

Tell us some funny or peculiar stories related to Estonia!

Margarita: Such a funny story happened to me today.
We had a fire drill at the dormitory this morning. They informed us before but I totally forgot about it. So I had just came out of the shower with my hair still wet, when the alarm started. I realised that I’m not ready to go outside. However, I grabbed something quickly and me and my roommate ran out in our slippers. And we were the first ones out there and also the only ones without proper clothes on. It was odd and funny at the same time.
Another thing is that no one believes that I’m from Russia. They think that I’m from Italy or Sweden or Estonia. I don’t know why. They say I don’t look Russian. Maybe it’s because of my light hair. Or that for a Russian I’m too peaceful, and for Russians who live in Estonia I’m too crazy.
When my classmates in Russia found out on the third day of school that I am also a Russian, they were really surprised. The same happened in Tallinn. My classmates back home always called me Estonian because they knew how much I loved Estonia.
Estonia is like a second home for me.

Domenico: I will never forget what happened in the first week at TU: I began the course on Monday, sent my application on Wednesday, had an interview on Thursday, and was accepted on Friday. In that moment it seemed to me that Tallinn was there, waiting in my destiny.

Mustafa: I am doing my Ph.D. at Tallinn University and it sounds very serious, does it not? However, apart from the individual study for my dissertation as well as departmental courses, I am taking Russian language, piano and body-building courses. When people ask about the courses I am taking and when I start from the last one and go on, the expression on the people’s faces is weird. However, I believe that it is the prominent characteristic of Tallinn University: to offer courses for everyone from many different departments, which keeps the students highly motivated.
What do you like most about Estonia or Estonians?

Domenico: You can like it or not, but Estonian people need time to become close to a foreigner. But basically they love international students, and you can get an ID card in less than one week! And, most of all, everything changes so quickly here, I guess it is like this because you are in the most incredibly hi-tech place in Europe.

Mustafa: Many things… To start with, I love the Estonian nature, it is so well-preserved… I am also happy with traffic, which barely exists (for me) and I love that Estonians like eating, and singing – so do I.
I also like that Estonians are rational and honest people, which creates less drama.

This year, Tallinn Summer School took place for the 8th time. 18 courses brought together the record number of participants – 320. The next summer school will take place in July 2014, but registration is already open for Tallinn Winter School (January 6 – 24, 2014).

Interviews by Kätlin Hallik, edited by Annika Laas

More information:

Tallinn Summer School
Tallinn University

18 Oct 2013