Want to study in Estonia?
Estonia is situated in northeastern Europe, being the northernmost of the three Baltic States. It is bounded on the west and north by the Baltic Sea and on the east by Lake Peipsi and the Narva River. It is bordered t by Russia o the east and southeast and Latvia to the south. Tallinn, the Estonian capital, is only about 85 km south of Helsinki, the capital of Finland, across the Gulf of Finland. Sweden is Estonia’s nearest western neighbor across the Baltic Sea.
Estonia is often referred to as a very small country. With an area of 45,000 sq. km, Estonia is, in fact, larger than e.g. Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark or Switzerland, but still, for example, five times smaller than Great Britain. Estonia stretches 350 km from east to west and 240 km from north to south. Sea islands form one tenth and lakes about one-twentieth of Estonia’s territory. Almost half of the Estonian territory is covered by forest and woodland.
The Estonian climate is temperate and mild, characterized by warm summers and fairly severe winters. The weather is often breezy and humid due to the proximity of the Baltic Sea. Seasons in Estonia vary widely. Average temperatures range from 20.9° C in summer, with July usually being the hottest month, to -8° C in winter, although occasionally the temperature may rise to 30° C and above in summer or fall below -23° C in winter. The longest day of the year is 21st June, with 19 hours of full daylight.
The Estonian natural environment is influenced by the low population density (around 30 inhabitants per square km), its proximity to the Baltic Sea, and its position between the Eastern and Central European bio-geographical areas. That means there is a borderline of occurrence for many species and types of landscapes here. Bogs, meadows, forests, and little lakes offer the opportunity to experience silence and pristine nature. Furthermore, Estonia has more than 1,500 charming islands: the largest are Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, and Muhu.
Spending time outdoors is a pleasure in Estonia. Estonian nature is picturesque and vibrant. Hiking trips and camping are very popular in summer, and skiing and other winter sports are enjoyed by many in winter.
The State Forests offer beautiful hiking trails and possibilities for accommodation. There are also many other places in Estonia where one can spend an enjoyable time outdoors. Probably the best places for skiing are in southern Estonia where you will possibilities for mountain skiing, for example at Kuutse Hill (in Estonian Kuutsemäe), but don’t expect the Alps! Beautiful cross-country skiing trails can be found in Otepää, Kääriku, Vooremäe, Haanja, Mõedaku or Kõrvemaa, but also within city limits — in Pirita in Tallinn and in Tähtvere park in Tartu. Beautiful places worth visiting include Taevaskoja, Soomaa, Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, the Northern coast, Lahemaa, the Piusa caves, the Endla Nature Reserve, and Suur Munamägi and many others.
Interesting facts about Estonian nature
- The length of the longest day in summer is over 19 hours, while the shortest winter day lasts only six hours.
- Bogs and wooded swamplands of different types cover over one-fifth of the country – a world index topped only by the northern neighbor, Finland.
- Estonia is at the same latitude in Europe as central Sweden and the northern tip of Scotland.
- Temperatures in Estonia may fluctuate by 20 °C; in the early morning, the thermometer might read -12 °C and by afternoon it may already be 10 °C.
- About 10% of Estonia is a nature reserve.
- Estonian wooded meadows are among the richest biomes in the world – one square meter has more than 70 species. This figure at times exceeds the diversity in the tropics.
- Taking into account the farthest points and islands of Europe, the central point of Europe is in Saaremaa, Mõnnuste village.
- Hiiumaa as Nordic Bora Bora – on this island with a surface area of a thousand square kilometers and barely 10,000 inhabitants each visitor can easily find a paradise beach of his own not packed with tourists. For example, the beaches of Luidja or Tahkuna.
- Kaali meteorite crater – the last giant meteorite in the world that fell into a high-density area. The power of the blast was comparable to that of a nuclear bomb, leaving clear evidence to influence the tales of the local nations.
- Estonia has the highest number of meteorite craters per land area in the world.
- According to legends, the burial place of the main god of ancient Scandinavians, Odin, is located on Osmussaare. This is reflected in the Swedish name of the island, Odinsholm (Odin’s Island).
- Estonia is a part of one of the fastest-growing economic regions in Europe. It is located at the heart of the Baltic Sea Region – Europe’s fastest-growing market of more than 90 million people. This region is one of the most diverse and rewarding markets in Europe as it spans the well-developed economies of Scandinavia and Northern Germany, the rapidly expanding economies of the Baltic States and Poland, and the vast potential markets of Northwest Russia.
- The Estonian economy is considered to be liberal and innovative. IT is one of the most popular areas of business and also “the thing” to study. The use of IT has infiltrated services as well as the industrial sector and has greatly changed the way things are done nowadays. The main trend is towards simplification, innovation, and customer-friendliness.
- The fact that companies do not have to pay income tax for re-invested profits and a company can be registered in just 18 minutes is considered to be an effective method for enhancing entrepreneurship and for the promotion of innovation and new business solutions. Income tax must be paid only on profits that are paid out to shareholders.
Situated between Eastern and Western Europe on the map, Estonia is also a border zone, or more accurately a crossing point, in terms of culture. In the traditions of these parts, one can find elements originating from the East as well as the West, but the Estonians mostly consider themselves a Northern people and conceptually bound to Scandinavia. Marginal and border cultures are where one can find the most interesting phenomena and combinations. In this regard, Estonia is a country of dozens of possibilities.
Estonian is the official language of Estonia. It is spoken by about 1.1 million people in the country itself and thousands of others abroad. Estonian is a Finno-Ugric language and is closely related to Finnish and distantly to Hungarian. It has been influenced by German, Russian, and Swedish and Latvian, though it is not related to them.
The Estonian language has 14 cases but the use of prepositions is relatively simple. Estonian belongs to the Finno-Ugric family of languages and is therefore probably easier for Finns to learn than it is for others. Before starting your Estonian studies, you should make sure that the teacher uses a type of teaching methods that you are able to follow. It would be advisable to listen to a sample lesson. Larger language learning centers offer several courses per year.
Estonians value their language and culture highly but generally do not expect foreigners to have any knowledge of it. Sometimes, it even seems that they take pride in the Estonian language being so difficult for foreigners to learn – as if this feature alone would make the language exceptional and mysteriously beautiful. The practice has proved that the quickest way for a foreigner to open up a reserved Estonian is to at least try to say something in Estonian: a simple “Tere” (Hello) or “Aitäh” (Thank you) will make any Estonian smile in surprise and delight.
The education system in Estonia
Estonian higher education has two cycles, following the Anglo-Saxon bachelor–master model. Bachelor’s level studies form the first cycle and master’s level studies form the second cycle. Under this section, you will find an overview of the Estonian education system and also important information about grading, exam systems, and qualifications.
Academic progress is measured in credit points (ainepunkt, or ECTS credit). Credit points are calculated cumulatively based on the student’s workload. 1.5 credit points correspond to 40 hours or one week of studies performed by the student. Credit points are not related to the lecturing or any other workload of a member of the academic staff. The normal workload of an average student during a full academic year would be forty weeks of studies adding up to 60 ECTS credit points. Credit points are only awarded for successfully completed courses.
The descriptions of the study programs specify the following aspects: the nominal length of studies, the balance of compulsory and optional subjects, the number of credits for specific courses together with a general description of the content, available majors within the study program, and requirements for graduation.
Estonian higher education has two cycles, following the Anglo-Saxon bachelor–master model, bachelor’s level studies form the first cycle, and master’s level studies form the second cycle. In some specialties, the study programs have been integrated into a single cycle. In addition to the two-cycle general structure, the study programs of medicine, dentistry, pharmaceutical, veterinarian, architectural, and civil engineering training are single long-cycle studies with a nominal length of 5–6 years and with a capacity of 300–360 ECTS credits. Such single long-cycle studies are called integrated bachelor’s master’s studies and are based on an integrated study program containing both basic studies and profound specialization. The completion of this degree will provide a qualification corresponding to a master’s level degree.
Living costs in Estonia are affordable and are considered to be lower than in most other European countries. General feedback from foreigners who have spent some time here is that living conditions are similar to those in Western Europe. The cost of living in Estonia is usually dependent upon the student’s accommodation choices, lifestyle, and spending patterns.
- Currency: the euro (EUR, €)
- Monthly living costs: €300–€500, depending on the student`s choices
Student accommodation rent in the dormitories is approximately 150 euros. Some universities have student dormitories with single, double, and triple rooms. Housing costs largely depend on the location and size of the flat. On average, the prices range from about €100 for a place in a double room in the residence hall to €250–€500 or more for a private flat.
Students can usually enjoy a comfortable life with around €300 per month for food. Each student can determine food expenses individually, depending on their needs. Every university also has its own cafeteria(s), which offers a nice meal at a reasonable price.
Daily specials in pubs and cafes: €3–€5
Public transport is available for all students and is free of charge in Tallinn (only for residents of Tallinn, including international students studying in Tallinn). Local public transport in Tartu: €8.63 with a monthly ticket (with student card), a single ticket for a student €0.51 (€1 on the bus). Most universities have everything needed (supermarkets, cafes, shops, pharmacy, gym, etc.) located within a short walking distance.
Taxi (depending on the company): Average starting fee from €1.9, each km from €0.6.
Bus ticket from Tallinn to Tartu: €8.10–€10.50
Entertainment and free time:
Theatre ticket: €12–€19
Concert ticket: € 8–€30
Nightclub ticket: up to €5–€15 (depends on the club, free entrance or discounts for ladies or students with a student card are common)
Movie ticket: €4.5–€5.7 (depending on the cinema or time of the day or day of the week)
University sports clubs
- Group training fees: average €60–€100 per semester or €30–€40 per month (depending on the university)
- Gym/fitness club: €30–€35 per month.
- Private sports clubs: €30–€70 per month (depending on the club and training package)
Visa and residence permit
All students who are not Estonian citizens or EU citizens (including EEA countries and Switzerland) need a temporary residence permit for study. EU citizens should obtain a temporary right of residence in Estonia.
Please note that Estonia does not issue a “study visa”, all non-EU students should apply for a temporary residence permit for studying (TRP). When certain conditions are met, then it is possible to apply for C- (short term) or D-visa (long term) to travel to Estonia and apply for a residence permit after arrival.
The visa and residence permit application process will usually begin after the student has been accepted to study on the chosen program and after university has forwarded required acceptance documents to the accepted student.
In order to obtain a temporary right of residence, a student should register his/her place of residence in the Local Government authority of the place of residence within 3 months from the day of entry to Estonia. In addition, a student has to apply for an Estonian ID-card within 1 month from obtaining the temporary right of residence. More information can be found on the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board web page.
Students who are third-country nationals (not EU citizens) have to apply for a temporary residence permit for study at the nearest Estonian Embassy or Consul in their home country or country of residence (more info on the page of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
If there is no Estonian Embassy or Consul in your home country or country of residence, you should contact the nearest Estonian Embassy. More information about the application process and all the required documents (including legal income proving certifications) can be found from Estonian Police and Border Guard Board website.
Starting from the 1st of October 2010, all third-country nationals who already stay legally in Estonia and wish to study at the master’s or doctoral level have a right to apply for residence permits for study at the Police and Border Guard Board in Estonia. Temporary Residence Permit for Studies is issued for the duration of nominal studies (bachelor 3 years and master 2 years).
Students from third countries have to register their place of residence in the Local Government authority within 1 month from the arrival to Estonia on the basis of residence permit for study.
Migration advisors work in the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board, with the aim help foreigners to settle in Estonia. Personal advisors give legal advice about different legal grounds to live in Estonia and the necessary documentation for people coming to study and work here but also to employers and educational institutions who invite foreigners. The counseling service specializes in residence and temporary stay, but also documents and citizenship issues.
Advisors work in Estonian, English, and Russian. This service is free of charge.