Liudmyla (33) Second year master student from ukraine
Even though it is not necessary, to know at least a couple of words in Estonian is respectful towards the host country
Originally from southern Ukraine, Liudmyla came to Estonia in the summer of 2015 to study at The University of Tartu in the Baltic Sea Region programme. She found out about the university and its courses by chance on the web and decided to apply for her current programme. Today, Liudmyla enjoys her life in Estonia. Because it covers many historical, political and cultural aspects of the Baltic States, her study programme has helped her to discover and understand the country in which she lives.
"It is 100% necessary to know about the history and traditions of the country where we live. Educated people should know their own history as well as that of its neighbours. Estonians are really friendly and interesting. I like their positivity, creativity and their personal responsibility which also surprised me."
There is also another important aspect which helped Liudmyla to create a bond with the native population: she found a big support among Estonians regarding the war in Ukraine. What she appreciates the most about locals is the fact that they do not consider Ukraine for the government it has, but for the people that live there.
I have visited many European countries but when I came to Estonia, I realised that the people of this small country are different from what I have seen before. They understand that I represent my country and not my government. This is unique.
Liudmyla feels that to communicate with locals it does not require any specific knowledge of Estonian because everybody understands and speaks English and Russian. However, during the first semester, she attended an Estonian language course for beginners to learn some basic and helpful expressions. "I took the 0 –A1.1 level of course, because I believe that knowing at least a couple of words in Estonian is respectful towards the host country. It was quite hard to practise though, because as soon locals understand that you are a foreigner, they immediately switch to English or Russian." Despite the difficulty to improve her Estonian language skills, being a foreigner in Tartu does not represent a problem for her: she does not feel socially excluded, she takes part in many events inside and outside the university, and she also had a job during the first semester. Regarding the job experience, she admitted that it was hard to work while still being a student. "I quit my job because I could not make it. I was working at home for a Ukrainian company, but it is not possible to combine your job with your courses, exercises, study etc. I found it very stressful."
As a Ukrainian, she has found several differences with Estonians, especially in "thoughts and perception of world" as well as in education system and life style.
Sometimes she faces hard moments. The main problem she had is regarding the visa. She stressed how Estonian bureaucracy requires a long time for her to receive document and openly declared to have the feeling that Estonia still considers Ukraine as a third sort of a country. Now, she is facing the same problem again. "I am still waiting for my new ID even though the deadline was at the beginning of December 2016. I cannot even go home for Christmas and my daughter is waiting to celebrate it with her mom. Can you imagine? It is a tragedy for me at the moment." However, being surrounded by a multicultural atmosphere helps her a lot in the everyday life.
When asking her whether she will stay in Estonia after her graduation, Liudmyla hesitates and says that she cannot give a definitive answer right now. "Estonia is great, but I do not stick myself to a country. I want to find a job that I will like and where I will find it, there I will move."