Andero Kalju

How I kick-started my career by studying in Estonia

If you’re looking for an unforgettable study abroad experience – one that’s capable of equipping you with the knowledge and skills required to kick-start your career – then Estonia should be at the top of your list. 

Blessed with stunning natural scenery and historic towns and cities, Estonia is also home to some of the top universities in Europe, including the University of Tartu which is ranked joint 358th in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2024

To learn more about the benefits of studying in Estonia, we spoke to two international students from the University of Tartu about their experiences. 

An affordable, career-focused choice  

When asked what attracted him to study in Estonia, Bill Sendewicz, an international student from the US enrolled in the master’s programme in Actuarial and Financial Engineering at the University of Tartu, confessed it hadn’t been a study destination on his list initially: 

“I heard about Estonia sort of by accident. I received an email about affordable master’s programmes taught in English within Europe and it mentioned Estonia. I didn’t really know anything about the country but it’s a good school and a good programme and it was very low cost compared to studying in the US, where a master’s degree can cost $50,000 a year or more.” 

When considering his options for studying a master’s degree, Bill said a significant factor that attracted him to the University of Tartu was the range of courses that can be taken during your studies. 

“I was fascinated by the diversity of the courses on practical mathematical models and quantitative methods, with teaching led by professors highly qualified in financial mathematics. What surprised me the most is that you can also take courses within other institutes at the university without any entry requirements and there’s no limit. I’ve taken several courses in the Institute of Computer Science, and it’s actually helped me get a job in technology in Estonia.” 

Elman Karimli, an international student from Azerbaijan who studies International Law and Human Rights was also similarly impressed by the opportunities for career development at the University of Tartu, which he learned about after attending a student recruitment event in Baku: 

“A representative from the University of Tartu highlighted the university’s rich history, its research-intensive programmes and the picturesque city of Tartu itself. However, the University of Tartu is located not only in Tartu but also has departments in multiple cities in Estonia, including in the country's capital, Tallinn, where my programme in International Law and Human Rights is based. What appealed to me the most were its ranking as a top university in the region and the inclusivity and warmth of the student community. 

“The law department caught my attention specifically, especially since the professors are internationally recognised and well-known for their research and teaching. I wanted a university with a strong emphasis on international law and human rights. Practical experience, such as moot court competitions and internships, were also essential. I prioritised universities with a robust alumni network in the legal sector and ones that engaged with global legal issues.” 

A friendly, engaging study environment 

Having found a university and degree that paired perfectly with his long-term career objectives, Elman also spoke warmly of the support he received from his fellow students during his studies. 

Elman told us: “The student community at the University of Tartu is wonderfully diverse and active. I've deeply appreciated the sense of camaraderie among law students. Whether it's preparing for exams, collaborating on research papers, or engaging in extracurricular activities, there's always someone willing to help.  

“The diversity in the student body, bringing in perspectives from different legal systems, has made classroom debates incredibly enriching and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the engaging guest lectures given by experienced legal professionals from around the world.” 

When reflecting on the cohort within his Actuarial and Financial Engineering programme, the qualities which stood out to Bill most were the international diversity and high quality of students:  

“There is a large international community here. Within my programme there are about 15 students in a cohort. About half of these were Estonian with other students coming from Latvia, Japan, USA, Azerbaijan, Morocco, China and many other places.  

“I think many of the international students who come to Tartu are extremely technically competent and can be competitive for graduate jobs from day one. The master’s degree is that final step and it’s great that the government permits international students to work while studying, even as early as their first semester.” 

A unique and unforgettable experience 

Of course, the study abroad experience is about so much more than what happens in the classroom and both Elman and Bill spoke with delight of using some of their spare time to explore the beautiful natural environment which surrounds Tartu and Tallinn.  

Elman said: “Estonians have a deep appreciation for nature which is reflected in the beautiful landscapes and well-preserved natural spots throughout the country. The serene landscapes, especially the coastal regions, offer a perfect retreat after intense legal readings.” 

For Bill, one of the biggest highlights has been getting to experience the sauna culture within Estonia: “I’ve really taken to that sauna culture and have been to maybe 30 or 40 different saunas around the country. Getting to socialise with people has been really fun and a sauna is one of the primary ways to do that. 

“It’s also an incredibly safe place, with virtually no crime and not even any litter. The low population density means that there’s lots of open space. Everyone seems very conscientious and there’s a great sense of personal responsibility within the community, and what’s really nice is that a lot of the international students adopt that mentality too.” 

When asked if international students arriving in Estonia should be aware of anything in particular, Bill highlighted the seasonal differences between summer and winter as something to adjust to: 

“Winters here are long. It’s not unreasonable to have snow before the end of October and it can be around until early April. There’s a lack of daylight as the days get shorter but the counterbalance is that in the summer it can stay light past 11pm. 

“In the winter, it’s important to have a good friendship group and to have developed good habits and routines so that you’re still making the most of things.” 

Elman echoed this, urging prospective international students: “Embrace the winter! Although it’s cold, the snow-covered landscapes are enchanting!” 

Post-graduation career opportunities 

After studying in Estonia, you’ll be equipped with the hard and soft skills required to succeed anywhere in the world, but you won’t have to look far for amazing career opportunities. 

Elman told us: “Post-graduation, I'm exploring opportunities with international legal firms operating in Estonia, especially those focusing on business law, intellectual property law, information technology law and cyber law, given Estonia's lead in digital innovations. 

“However, I'm also considering a Ph.D., and with the quality of research at the University of Tartu, staying here is a strong possibility.” 

Bill is also keeping an eye on career openings within Estonia: “A lot of companies have offices in both Tartu and Tallinn, including my current company, so there’s freedom to work in either city whenever we want and you don’t necessarily need to move to a different company if you decide you want to live in the bigger city after graduation. Typical careers for graduates in my programme include banking, insurance and financial risk management (e.g. actuary, risk engineer).” 

This article was originally published in January 2024 on the QS Top Universities websiteAuthor Craig OCallaghan

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