Independent University Newspaper
Copenhagen Business School

Popular searches:

Independent University Newspaper

Copenhagen Business School

5 tips to surviving exchange in (cold, dark & wet) Estonia

Go on exchange |   07. Dec 2021

portrait of woman

Helena Bendix-Nielsen


Although Estonia does not seem that far away from my familiar surroundings of CBS, Copenhagen, and Denmark in general, living in this corner of the world is indeed different.

Being away from friends, family, and my cuddly cats is one thing; living in a country with a strange, foreign language, dark winters, and mandatory use of reflectors is another thing altogether.

As this is both my first exchange and my first time in Estonia, I have been continuously surprised by certain things throughout my stay – below, I have gathered my best tips for exchange in Estonia.

1. Say yes, be open and make friends

Saying yes to everything, being open and making friends is a huge cliché, but nonetheless, I guess it is a cliché for a reason. Generally, it is so important for your exchange experience that you seek experiences, opportunities, and friendships from the very first day, as those friends and experiences will be co-defining your stay abroad.

In Estonia, it might even be a tad more important than elsewhere. As I have come to learn, Estonian people can be very difficult to become friends with, as they are generally not particularly fond of small talk and talking to strangers. Thus, I can truly recommend seizing every opportunity that comes your way, whether it is a coffee invitation after school, or a spontaneous weekend trip to a neighboring country.

Just say yes – you never know what those people or experiences will lead to.

Me and my friends in Helsinki. (Photo: Helena Bendix-Nielsen)
Me and my friends in Kyiv. (Photo: Helena Bendix-Nielsen)

2. Get acquainted with the Estonian language before your exchange

Before moving to Estonia, I had been told that everyone here knows English, and that there was no reason to learn Estonian. I should not have listened to that. While many Estonians do indeed speak English very well, there are also quite a few who do not speak much and will reply to you in Estonian almost per default. This is particularly the case when you go away from the touristy places, which will typically happen to most people during a half-year stay abroad. For me, this is the case every time I go to the supermarket around the corner, as I do not live in the city center.

Thus, my first language incident naturally happened at my local supermarket. It was supposed to be fairly easy to get a customer card, which is needed to obtain the supermarket’s discounts. However, as you may guess, the process is smoother when you and the supermarket employee speak the same language. Luckily, I was rescued by a fellow customer who had seen the confusion written all over my face, and who was willing to spend a couple minutes of his day translating between Estonian and English.

Because of this discovery, I have since had to learn the basics along the way, and Google Translate has become my new best friend. In hindsight, it would have been beneficial to set aside some time to learn Estonian beforehand, and I would definitely recommend you should do just that.

3. Live like a local

You might be used to living life a certain way and doing things a certain way. My advice for exchange in Estonia is to do the exact opposite; instead, adapt to the Estonian way of living to make the most of your exchange.

It is no secret that the Estonian weather is typically cold, dark, and wet this time of year. In the welcome package from Study in Estonia, there was even a reflector, as they are obligatory to wear during the winter season. Yes, it gets that dark. Similarly, vitamin D supplements are a must to get through this time of year, as we rarely see the sun.

However, there are also benefits to the winter weather: The first snow falls in November, making it more joyful to go outside than when it is just pouring down. The beautiful Christmas lights are being set up, so they are ready to light up the streets when darkness hits in the early afternoon. Ice skating rinks are popping up all over Tallinn, ready to transform me into Bambi on ice. Mulled wine can be bought everywhere, keeping me warm if I get cold. And, in case I get too cold, Bolt is there to take me home.

Me and my friends at Sveta Bar. (Photo: Helena Bendix-Nielsen)
Me and my friends in Narva, close to the Russian border. (Photo: Helena Bendix-Nielsen)

4. Bolt is your new best friend

Do you swear to Just Eat or Wolt on a Friday night? Do you take the metro home from a night out because a cab is too expensive?

Well, not in Tallinn.

If you live in Copenhagen, you may know Bolt as the company providing the green scooters randomly lying around the city. However, in Estonia, Bolt is so much more than the infamous green scooters.

Bolt was founded in Estonia and is regularly used as a case example by professors at the Estonian Business School. In other words, Bolt is Estonia’s pride and joy. In addition to the (well organized) scooters, Estonia has Bolt cabs, Bolt Drive and Bolt Food. As I do not drive, the cabs are my favorite way of getting around if I’m not in the mood to take the bus. Five euros go a long way, and I am surely taking advantage of that while I am here. However, Bolt Drive is the best option when going on daytrips, and Bolt Food will deliver takeaways to your doorstep. And the best of it all? All the charges are way cheaper than in Denmark.

Our Bolt Drive car at Viru Bog. (Photo: Helena Bendix-Nielsen)
A tram in Tallinn. (Photo: Helena Bendix-Nielsen)

5. Enjoy your exchange

Estonia was not my first exchange choice. Not my second either – and it may be the same for you.

Although Estonia might not be where you wanted to go for your exchange, it will be an experience anyway. And therefore, my final tip is to simply enjoy being on exchange. Enjoy where you are, the people you meet, and the memories you make together. The crying, the laughing, the nights out, the cab rides home, the coffee meetings, the Saturday classes, the autumn beach trips, the 1:00 am meals at Hesburger, and even the Vana Tallinn shots. It is all part of the experience. Enjoy.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

5 tips to surviving exchange in (cold, dark & wet) Estoniaby

  • News

    Staff layoffs: What happens if you’re fired

    The clock is ticking. On Thursday morning (5 October), CBS employees will know if they are up for dismissal or not. But what will happen on the day? What emotional stages are you likely to encounter? And who will be there to pick you up when you are feeling the blow of being laid off? CBS WIRE has talked to HR and the consulting agency Actief Hartmanns to provide you with answers.

  • News

    Network, network, network – CBS graduates advise on getting your first job

    There are many approaches to finding your first job. Three recent CBS graduates talk about how they landed theirs. Their approaches were quite different, yet they all highlight networking as a key element.

  • News

    A-Z of the dismissals

    In these final days of September, the fate of a number of CBS employees is being decided. The final amount of money saved on salaries via voluntary severance agreements (aka redundancy packages, Ed.) and senior agreements will be known.  After this, the actual number of employees up for dismissal will be decided by management – and then the individuals will be selected.

  • News

    Layoffs break the crucial trust between organisation and employee

    CBS is laying off a number of employees soon, which will affect our university in different ways. When employees are fired without having done anything wrong, it shatters the trust between the organisation and employees, while also taking a toll on productivity, according to a CBS expert. Layoffs also affect the ‘survivors’, who are forced to adapt to a changed workload and the loss of cherished colleagues.

  • News

    Here to help – at the touch of a button and at Campus Desk

    Exam anxiety? Lost student card? I’ve wedged my car between a Fiat 500 and a lamp post, can you help? You never know what you’ll be asked next. But that’s just how the Campus Desk team like it. And if they can’t fix your problem, they’ll know someone who can. CBS WIRE asked the team about the whole range of topics they advice on every day.

  • Gif of the week
  • News

    CBS Quiz Time: Unraveling the success story

    A successful university environment such as CBS is often associated with academic pursuits, but campus life extends far beyond the classroom. At CBS Quiz Time, a student society motivated by creative thinking and social engagement, students join in a refreshing range of creativity, excitement, and social interaction. CBS WIRE talked to Celine Møller-Andersen to find out about the society’s vision, strategies and the factors that are driving its rapid expansion.

  • News

    Why so sudden? The CBS financial crisis explained

    Employees and union representatives have posed many questions in the wake of the 17 August announcement of a firing round. In this interview, University Director Arnold Boon explains how Senior Management has been working with the budget and a change of financial strategy since the fall of 2022, and why layoffs are now necessary.

Follow CBS students studying abroad

CBS WIRE collaborates with

Stay connected