1. Why did you decide to study abroad as an exchange student?
I always knew that I wanted to go to an exchange, even before I started my studies. I think it’s mainly because I have already worked abroad—actually in five countries—before I started studying here in Tallinn. I’ve just always been really interested in other cultures and countries. Also, study-wise, I thought it would be really nice to see a university somewhere else, because I’m thinking of doing my masters in another country. So, going on an Erasmus exchange to the University of Nicosia was a great chance to do that.
2. Were you considering/applying to multiple universities for your Erasmus exchange, or was the university in Cyprus your only choice? Why did you end up choosing it?
I was considering other universities and countries. Actually, I wanted to go to another continent, just because I thought that kind of experience would broaden my horizons—it would be really unique to go to Africa or Asia, somewhere other than Europe. But, because I applied and started my studies around the COVID-19 pandemic, there weren’t that many options available. And, in the end, I ended up applying to Cyprus—that was my only choice when I submitted my application.
Cyprus started to interest me because I think the culture is very unique there as well, because the country is basically divided between Cyprus and then the Northern part belonging to Turkey. From the cultural and historical point of view, it’s fascinating. Also, I’m very interested in the Greek language. My partner is from Greece, and I don’t really speak it that well, so I really wanted to go to Cyprus to improve my Greek skills. Oh, and it’s sunny there! I was really fed up with the weather here in the North.
Actually, probably the most important reason why I ended up applying only to Cyprus was because they had the courses suitable for me, as I really wanted to graduate on time.
3. What kind of classes did you take while in Cyprus? Which one was your favorite?
I took five courses (30 ECTS), all of them corresponding to my program here in Tallinn. Basically, there were all kinds of classes because that’s the nature of social sciences. My favorites back then were the courses called General Psychology and Cultural Anthropology, but I really liked all of my classes.
4. How different was the approach to learning in your host university compared to Tallinn University?
I enjoyed learning at the University of Nicosia. Maybe I was just lucky, but my lecturers were passionate about their topics and were really good teachers. All my teachers had studied in London for either their Bachelor's or Master’s or even PhD, so you could see that they were great at what they did, as well as good at motivating students. Also, the class sizes at the University of Nicosia were smaller, so you could speak a lot during the classes, which made the experience more interactive.
5. What, in your opinion, was the best part of your exchange studies?
The best part of my exchange studies might be surprising for some, as it’s probably the studying part. I really appreciated that experience, it was so nice to see another university and get familiar with that university's culture. For example, the University of Nicosia had more events than Tallinn University—they had parties at the university. But especially learning-wise—I feel like I’ve learned the most while I was in Cyprus.
Then, secondly, making new friends was so nice. I’m still close with my ex-roommates—I was living with a girl from Latvia and a boy from Slovakia. I loved getting to know them. Other friends that I made were other Erasmus students from other countries. Also, they had three or four universities in Nicosia, so there were plenty of Erasmus students in the cities overall. And, of course, exploring the island was one of the best parts, too. It was so beautiful.
6. Did you face any difficulties while being in Cyprus? If so, what kind?
I did face many difficulties when in Cyprus. The first one that comes to mind—and the biggest one—was safety. I didn’t expect Cyprus to be an unsafe destination—and I still don’t think it is—but it can be a bit uncomfortable, especially as a woman, especially in the capital. Sometimes you just don’t feel safe, and it’s one difficulty that affected my life there quite a lot. Then, financial things. Cyprus is quite an expensive country, so it’s hard to survive only with the Erasmus support—you kind of have to have some savings; otherwise, you’ll have a hard time. Oh, and the poor transportation in the country—there isn’t really a well-working public transport system in Cyprus, so it’s hard to get around without a car, and renting a car is very expensive. I wish I had more money! That would’ve made the experience much easier.
In addition, when I arrived in Cyprus, I had an apartment booked already. I read a lot about it, that you should have it all figured out in advance because it’s really difficult to find housing there, as they have so many Erasmus students in the city and not that many houses. So, I had booked mine in advance, but once I arrived in Cyprus and went to the apartment, I felt really uncomfortable. The apartment was full of mold, dirty, and with a really bad bed, so I didn’t want to stay there. In the end, I ended up being homeless for two or three weeks in the beginning, which was very stressful. Thankfully, I had my ex-colleagues working in Cyprus, so I was able to stay with them for a bit. In the end, it was another adventure, but a difficult one.
7. If you had to choose one memory that perfectly represents your time in Cyprus, which one would it be?
I don’t know if I sound really boring by mentioning studying as the core memory, but it was! It was what I did most in Cyprus. I’m not a big party-person, which is a main activity that many Erasmus students do. So, instead, I focused on doing sports, exploring the island, and studying. Studying really represents my time in Cyprus, but in a different way—it was something refreshing. Because the university is different, you meet new students and teachers and so on. Also, I participated in Erasmus excursions—there were two hundred of us traveling together, and those were great times.
8. What kind of person do you think is best suited for an Erasmus exchange program?
I actually think that any kind of person would be! Because you can always make your experience look like you, to suit you. Like I mentioned, I’m not a big party-person, so I didn’t party that much. I went out once in a while, but I could do other things. So, I think, as long as you have the interest to go and explore, and as long as you have the ability to respect other cultures and people—which I hope everybody in the university does—then I believe anybody can go. Just remember to be open-minded and willing to learn new things; otherwise, I don’t think there’s one specific type of person that is suitable for an Erasmus exchange. Your experience should, and hopefully will, look like it’s yours. In any destination, you can do things that suit you the best—studying, exploring, sports, etc. For example, my roommate joined the university basketball team and did all kinds of sports every day, and he really enjoyed his time. In the end, there’s no one way to do Erasmus and live your experiences.
9. When it comes to the bureaucratic side of things—the scholarships, application process, etc—was there anything you struggled with? Would you consider TLU’s support to you sufficient during that time? Why/why not?
The paperwork isn’t that bad as it seems before you apply. It’s quite simple, you just need to have it done before the deadlines. What I wish that Tallinn University would have done more is have clearer instructions on how to fill in the papers and so on, because I felt like I had to ask around all the time about what exactly I had to do. But, overall, it’s easier than it seems.
It was more difficult from the Cyprus side, I’d say, because their culture is slower and more relaxed, and they don’t stress about these things. So, you should be prepared to wait a while to get signatures or responses to your emails if you go to countries like Cyprus or Italy. But, from the TLU side, we have a really great international studies coordinator! She does a great job and answers very fast.