Experiences of the Summer University in Estonia
by Oleksandr Zubrytskyi - MA student from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine.
Choosing between a trip to the sea and a dedication of time to the self-education I combined the pleasant with the useful. As a result I went to Estonia to participate in a 3-week program “European and Russian Relations: Social Dimension”.
So, my adventure started in Ukraine with a 36 hours transfer to Tallinn by four buses. The trip was difficult but I must admit it’s worth it. At the hostel I met friends from the USA, Canada and Finland who were participating in another interesting program organized by the International Summer University “After the Empire: The Collapse of Communism and Beyond”. They have created a friendly environment and shared impressions about their program and the cities where they stayed. I think the new team was built up and we all were ready for the next day classes.
Shortly speaking a week in Tallinn was dedicated to the relations between the Baltic States, the EU and NATO. All lectures were delivered by Prof. Andres Kasekamp. His lectures were informative, logical and led to discussions on topical issues. Prof. Kasekamp provided us with special readings and other materials.
Thus, in the end of the week we had a possibility to share opinions on the articles and discuss prospective relations with Russia, grounding positions on the readings.
To be honest, we had a busy schedule in Tallinn. Apart from a walking tour we went to different enterprises and institutions every day. Our first place from the list was a world-famous company Skype. Visit to the headquarter of the company was a unique opportunity to see a non-ordinary building with a sauna and a game room in it, a process of creation new software, to listen to the development of the company and changes of the quality of products. We also visited a company called Garage 48 what is a place for start-ups. Entrepreneurs and inventors share a place, ideas and benefits of the community in order to make a start-up. On Wednesday we explored Enterprise Estonia which aims to attract foreign investments and to establish business links between Estonian producers and foreign investment companies. Secondly, we visited IT Demo Centre that presented new computer technologies in the field of e-governance. The last company we visited in Tallinn surprised me the most. That was a famous Baltic Group A.S. It's an Estonian fashion company which designs and produces clothes for almost eighty years. All these excursions aimed to show us how to start business, how to rule enterprise and bring profit to the company and to the state.
Apart from enterprises, we also visited the Estonian Parliament. We had a chance to sit on a balcony for journalist and see the hall with chairs were parliamentarians work and Estonian laws are adopted. In addition, our group attended the European Commission Office in Estonia were a seminar on the role, structure and functions of the European Union was held.
To finish with the week in Tallinn, I can't miss our welcome dinner which was held at Pepersack - a well known restaurant with Estonian medieval cuisine. The meal was delicious and the performance of medieval fight added some romantic spirit to that unforgettable evening.
It was amazing time with great people but we had to move to Tartu where new four European students joined us but six Americans left.
Tartu is a capital of higher education of Estonia. The guide of the University of Tartu History Museum told us old interesting traditions of students' brotherhoods, for example, to become real students newbies had to run over the bridge which is nearly eight meters high.
During the second week of the program we had a course "The EU and Russia: competing politics in a common neighborhood" conducted by Prof. Andrey Makarychev. His interactive lectures and presentations brought a lot of questions, so critical opinions were expressed by the participants from different countries. On Friday, all students were divided into three groups basing on the origin - Ukraine, the USA and the EU, and prepared presentations that were discussed.
During free time we visited Estonian National Museum where discovered the history of Estonia from first settlements till Soviet times. As Tartu is a student city, the guide showed us famous romantic students' places and as well as an old Dome church during a walking tour through the city. And, of course, one of the best memories from Tartu is an excursion to the A. Le Coq brewery Museum.
After a week in Tartu we all moved to to Pärnu – the summer capital of Estonia. The city is situated on the coast and is washed by the Baltic Sea. Thousands of tourists come to sunbathe and swim here. It's one of the best places to swim in the Baltic Sea because the water is really warm. In addition, new infrastructure, places for beach volley-ball and football, different restaurants and night clubs make Pärnu one of the best resorts I've ever been to.
A third part of our program was the 3rd Martens Summer School on International Law. Four professors who presented well-known international law schools read interesting lectures which were combined with discussions and case studies. To make studies more informal and to feel the atmosphere of summer, professor read one lecture outside, what was met with gladness of students.
To warm up the atmosphere, all participators were invited to the dinner with a Parnu vice-mayor. Students had a possibility to talk to professors, ask informal questions and recommendations about further education abroad, making researches or receiving grants and scholarships. On Friday we finished the Summer school and the whole Program with a guided tour at Parnu Museum "Taste of Parnu through centuries" where students tasted treats from the past - Stone Age, medieval time, baroque and Soviet time including elk meat, fried pigs' ears, medieval bread and yogurt, Soviet traditional salad 'Shuba' and delicious Estonian herring.
To sum up, international Summer University is an amazing place to spend your vacation, broaden and practice your knowledge, explore Estonia and make new friends.