Country in the Spotlight: Estonia
Whether you’re a nature-lover or a passionate about all things digital, Estonia has the best of both worlds!
This may be the very first time you’ve heard of a country called Estonia, or Eesti in Estonian. If that’s the case, don’t feel bad. Estonia is still in many ways a well-kept secret. Across the bay from Finland and Sweden, it’s a country with only 1.3 million residents living on 45 000 square kilometres. What it lacks in numbers, however, it more than makes up for in spirit and big ideas! This article aims to break down just some of the reasons why you should pack your bags immediately and come study in Estonia.
Almost a third of all Estonians live in the capital city – Tallinn. And yet they never feel overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of city life, because wherever you are in Estonia, untouched wilderness is only 30 minutes away. Over 50% of the country is covered in forests, the air quality is one of the best in the world, and still you get the big city feel while walking between the skyscrapers in Tallinn. Usually, those two things don’t really go together, but Estonians wouldn’t have it any other way!
You may have heard of a little thing called Skype. You know, the program that lets you call anyone anywhere in the world? Well, that was created by Estonians. Although Skype may still be our most well-known success-story, Estonians have created several other successful companies in the recent years, such as Transferwise, Taxify and Adcash. Promoting an entrepreneurial mindset is a big thing in Estonian schools, universities and society. This is why most universities have startup programs for their students and startup entrepreneurship is even being taught as a separate curriculum.
Sweating in the Sauna
Estonians, like their beloved neighbours the Finns, love a good sauna. For some people, sitting half-naked in a small dark room with sweat dripping from their every pore is not a fun Saturday evening activity. For Estonians, no summer evening or cold winter day is complete without an invigorating sauna session. Also, believe it or not, some of the most important business deals of Estonians were made in the sauna. Estonians love the sauna so much, that they’re hosting the annual European sauna marathon.
Estonians hate unnecessary bureaucracy. Of course, they still occasionally need to fill in some paperwork or stand in a long line at the bank, but most things can get done in just a few minutes. Whether you’re checking your bank balance, applying for a scholarship, declaring your taxes, or voting (yes, even that) – it’s as easy as opening Angry Birds or Candy Crush on your smartphone. It even went so far that an e-residency program was started, which means anyone in the world can become a digital citizen of Estonia.
As Estonia is such a small country, it needs to come up with innovative solutions on how to be more efficient and productive. Estonians rely on the new generations to keep improving the Estonian way of life, which is why education is so important to them. Luckily, they must be doing something right because according to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the knowledge and skills of Estonian 15-year-olds in biology, geography, physics and chemistry are among the best in the world – the first in Europe and third on the global scale. This quality can also be seen in Estonian universities, as more and more international students (almost 10% of the total student number) are choosing to start their forward-thinking and innovative Estonian study programmes such as e-governance and cyber security.
So, is your bag packed for a trip to the Digital Wonderland? If you still need convincing, then congratulations – you’re practically an Estonian already, as they also tend to be skeptical of new things at first. That’s no excuse to be a stranger, though.