Student Life in Tartu

9 January 2023

Student Della Pirrie takes us through the Tartu student experience

Since most of the Erasmus students are leaving this term, I asked some friends about their time here. Virag is a post-grad student from Hungary, and Franzi’s a third-year medicine student from Germany, and they were both eager to talk about Tartu. I also spoke to Sam, who does Russian and History with me at UCL.



Everyone was pleasantly surprised at the range of English-taught classes offered. Virag took beginners Polish and really enjoyed it. I also took an extra language, grabbing the chance to study Chinese before getting back to SSEES. Most languages are taught in English at beginners level, not Estonian, but I was the only native English speaker in the class, and was often singled out to demonstrate the pronunciation hints from the American textbook. There aren’t many British people here (not counting NATO troops) but half the fun of Tartu is everyone being from different places. I can always tell that we’re properly drunk when an emotional chat begins about how beautiful it is that we’ve all found ourselves here in Estonia.

The Estonian climate is worth preparing for. I’ve always said it’s better to buy your cold-weather gear out here, since Estonians know best how to manage it, but Virag thinks you’re better off bringing it yourself. The cold can come suddenly, and you don’t want to be caught out and scrambling to find the perfect polo neck. I certainly regretted not bringing my beloved leather jacket, and had a nightmare with customs when my mum sent it out in October.


For Erasmus students, socialising is the main concern. Our first night in Tartu, Sam and I joined about fifty other students searching for a bonfire someone had rumours about. We never found the bonfire, so instead we all sat in the grass by the canal enjoying the last warm night of the year, and spoke well past the sun set at 10:30pm. Franzi spoke about how she found making friends harder than it used to be. If you’re a few years into your degree, it takes time to get back into the swing of ‘where are you from, what do you study, etc’. But while there are first years beginning their entire degree here, there’s also plenty of post grads, and the Erasmus network is great at helping international students socialise.



The nightlife in Tartu is a change from London. There are a few main hangout spots for international students, so you always know where to find us. The Erasmus karaoke nights are well loved, and they always begins relaxed, with people arriving early to reserve spots for Frank Sinatra, but by the end the room is full of people drunkenly joining in for ABBA. Just watch you don’t fall off the stage...

Sam pointed out that you do need to think more carefully about your nights out, since shops stop selling alcohol at 10pm, and food delivery is scarce after midnight. He says do your drunken self a favour and order pizza before you go out!