Our first semesters at the University of Tartu

Hello to you all!

I am Anna-Sofia, a Finnish Medical student at the University of Tartu. I was admitted for the semester 2021 and I have studied three semesters by now.

For me, Tartu was introduced as the cultural heart of Estonia. After three semesters here, it sure does feel like it. All the cultural happenings in Tartu and the miraculous Christmas feeling the city is able to achieve could alone be reasons for me to move to Tartu.

Coming from the capital of Finland, the best part of Tartu in my opinion is that everything is close enough to walk to. No need to take a bus, even though I have nothing against them either. There are a lots of options for hobbies and free time activities and plenty of student life. It is easy to get around, not too big, not too small.

The studies have been very much time-craving, but as they say, lots of work should lead to good results. Professors and teaching staff in the medical faculty of Tartu University are experienced and I could not wish for better. We have lots of practical hands-on learning, which I highly value. There is no better way of learning than doing it yourself. It is easy to remember how samples are analyzed and what they have to be like, if you have to do it yourself.

The international medicine students in University of Tartu have an amazing group spirit, as there are only around 100 of us. We get a bunch of support and help from our peer-tutors and older students. No one has to stress or study alone.

In 2021 I was able to apply with the finnish matriculation examination results, but now the BMAT is needed as one part of the application process. Also a motivation letter has to be written, and the final part of the application process is an interview. Luckily we have a BMAT expert to interview.

Panu started studying medicine in autumn 2022, so he has completed his first semester now. He will answer some questions, regarding applying and his first semester in Tartu.


Anna-Sofia and friend

Photo: author's private collection

When did you start your application process?

I think the BMAT registration started in January 2022. Usually the registration opens before that, as it is already open now in December. The test 2022 was organized as a remotely supervised test, online.

The test-room had to be scanned, as well as the identification document. The artificial intelligence seemed to even scan headwear, as it mistook my hair for a hat and kept telling me to take it off.  I practiced for the BMAT by doing the practice tests and studying high school chemistry, biology and physics.

What was the most difficult part of the application and how did you work through it?

The motivation letter was probably the most time-craving, while the interview made me the most nervous. I worked on my motivation letter for a long time, so that every time i read it through, I had enough objectivity to make it even better. By making sure I bring up the most important things in my motivation letter, I was able to write one that represents me as both a student and a person.

Were you worried about the BMAT, as it is completely different from tests you have done before? What was the most difficult part of it?

It was difficult to study for the BMAT test, as there was no way of knowing what would be asked. I was stressed about the time limit in the test, as it did not leave much time for miss understandings or read-throughs. Luckily, the point of the test is not to score full points, but to try your best. The most difficult part for me was the writing task, due to the short time.

In my opinion, a good way to practice for the test would be improving your writing skills with an AI app that gives feedback for your text, e.g. grammarly. That will also help you a lot with the motivation letter. If english isn't your first language I strongly recommend you to study biology, chemistry etc. in youtube pre-med courses.

When did you get your results and how did you feel?

The BMAT results were directly transferred to the university to see.

I had never before done a BMAT so it was difficult to say anything about the result, without comparing to how other students usually score.

Tartu University was supposed to announce results at the end of May, but we received our admission offers one week in advance. This made searching for an apartment a lot easier.

Was it easy to get your hands on an apartment and did everyone manage it before the start of the semester?

I managed to get an apartment without any problems and I have not heard of anyone living without one. There are lots of options for accommodation in Tartu. Student dorms are available, as well as private rental apartments and roommate solutions. The prices vary a lot, starting from a bit over 200€ I’d say, utilities may also vary a lot.

How were your first weeks in Tartu, together with your classmates?

We had a lot of tutor activities during the first couple of weeks in Tartu. Events that helped us to get to know each other. Most of the events were downtown so it was also a nice time to get to know the city with friends. Tartu as a city is perfect. It’s compact and yet offers a lot of services that you might need as a student.


Photo: Tartu Town Hall Square

How was the distribution of tests and exams?

We have a lot of tests and exams throughout the semester. It forces us to study before the final exams, which is great in my opinion. If everything would pile up in the last weeks, it would be a mission impossible.

What about the Estonian language?

The Estonian language is easy to learn as a Finn, but even without Finnish skills it seems doable with the help of our amazing Estonian teachers. Piret Toomet teaches us Estonian during the first two semesters and after that Gerli Lokk for two more semesters. Studying Estonian is fun and interesting, not to mention extremely beneficial, as we have to communicate with Estonian patients too. Learning the local language is motivating and fun, as every day I start to understand more and the country starts to feel more like home.

Maybe some tips or tricks for students applying in 2023?

1. It is never too early to start writing your motivation letter.

2. Practice the interview with a friend or family member, even if it feels weird.

3. You are going to be fine.

All of us in Tartu have different experiences about the city, settling in, as well as getting used to the Estonian language and culture. Both me and Panu would 100% recommend University of Tartu. So if you are not yet studying medicine in Estonia, or in Tartu, you could start by registering to BMAT.


Written by Anna-Sofia, a Finnish Medicine student in University of Tartu .


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