This blog post was written by Marina Loch. Marina originally came to Estonia for the Erasmus exchange semester during her undergrad studies, but loved it so much that she is now doing Veterinary Medicine PhD at Estonian University of Life Sciences.
The wind is not too strong, the sun is shining, and it’s warmer than I had anticipated. The boat glides smoothly through the water. It’s perfect. “Your turn!”, calls Piret, and I have to summarize why I became a student ambassador – or why you should become one. “For this very moment. So I could be on a historic boat on the river in Tartu and play my karmoška”, I say, and it’s only half jokingly. Since starting to learn the instrument (see the story about that here), playing it on a boat, preferably a wooden boat, has been a dream.
It’s been almost three years now since I joined Study in Estonia as and international student ambassador.
Why did I join in the first place? I suppose it was this: I could do what I had been doing for the past four years, but under an official umbrella. I could talk about life in Estonia, promote living and studying here, but with a wider audience than my personal blog. So I applied to be a student ambassador shortly after starting my PhD at the Estonian University of Life Sciences – a university I had chosen after experiencing it during an ERASMUS+ exchange semester in 2016. I love Estonia, I love this university, and I love talking about it. But despite working and studying in an international environment, my colleagues and friends were mostly Estonians. Becoming a part of Study in Estonia brought me into contact with people from all over the world who love Estonia just as much as I do. It got to hear about the history of Study in Estonia from Eero, who was there from the start. Heard stories from India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Greece, from other ambassadors. Stories from other Estonian universities. As much as we all like to integrate, it is so valuable to have international friends who are also far away from the culture they grew up in, far away from their families, and experience similar struggles.
We had workshops for improving our photography and social media skills, always combined with another fun activity, like a dinner in Tartu or a hike in a bog near Tallinn. I got to tell my stories, of living on an Estonian sheep farm, joining music school, or travelling alone. And being an ambassador brought me into situations I would have never found myself in if I weren’t part of Study in Estonia.
It was during a joint meeting with the International Student Ambassadors of the University of Tartu, when I mentioned to the Chinese student next to me that my PhD project involves sheep. “Do you by any chance know where I could get lamb meat? I love cooking with it, but haven’t found a supplier I like yet”, she said. Well, the farm where I did my research happened to breed meat sheep, so I connected her. Sometime later, when I was at the farm again, improving my Estonian, doing my research, and working in the stable, she wrote to me: Could she come visit the farm to buy some more meat, and also cook some Chinese food for the farmers as a thank you?
A few days later, she was there. In the middle of nowhere in South Estonia, the farmer’s family and I were served authentic Chinese food, made from local resources and cooked on a fire stove.
With my thesis deadline approaching, making some fun Instagram reels for Study in Estonia or going to see a ballet in Vanemuine Theater with my new ambassador friend from the US, are very welcome distractions. Very soon, I will no longer be a student. I really should get back to writing the thesis instead of another blog post... And even though I will no longer officially be an ambassador for Study in Estonia, some parts of this role will stick with me.
As the majority of Study in Estonia student ambassadors are located in Tallinn, I got to go there a few times in these three years, and had it not been for Covid-19, we would have had even more events and meetings there. But for my final get-together, I can show off my favorite city Tartu once more. With sunshine and our hair flying in the wind, the archaic boat Jõmmu carries us up and down the river Emajõgi, past the city center promenade, the beaches, and the suburbs. And I play karmoška.
We are looking for an addition to our excellent group of student ambassadors!
Feel free to join if you:
✔️ Enjoy writing, taking photos and making videos.
✔️ Like to meet new people and take on new challenges.
✔️ Like to share your experience of being an international student in Estonia.
Apply before October 8th on our Become An Ambassador page!