Tallinn University hosts over 700 foreign students. Some like Tallinn University enough to become our Student Ambassadors - students who promote the university in their home country, on fairs, etc. One of our Student Ambassadors is Sofio Giorgadze from Georgia. Below is an interview with her as well as information about our future visit to Tbilisi.
Hi Sopo! Tell us more about your background? Where did you study? Is your family from Tbilisi? What did your family and friends think when you break the news about coming to Tallinn? How do you interact with your family? I come from Georgia. My family is from Tbilisi and that’s where I grew up and studied before moving in Tallinn. I hold bachelor’s degree from Tbilisi State University; also in my final year of studies I went in Lithuania through the exchange program, so it’s my second time studying in a Baltic region. Well about my siblings... I do have one brother (the most amazing guy!), no sisters unfortunately. My parents were actually really happy when I informed them about me coming in Tallinn. They encouraged me at first but now I see that they actually miss me pretty much. We are talking over Skype most of the time; they have not managed to visit me in Tallinn yet, but instead I’m going back home during winter and summer holidays. You are Georgian living and studying in Estonia. From where came the idea to come to study in Estonia in the first place? I wanted to come in Europe for my master’s and I remember I was searching for study options. That time I did not know how it’s to live in Estonia, but as previously I had visited Lithuania and Latvia, I was expecting that being a student here would be a good experience however it turned out to be so much better than I could imagine. I could assume that it would be great here as well. I was also considering some other European countries, but it’s pretty hard to find a program on your desire plus in English and with suitable fees. Here they offered me funding and a quality education so these were the key factors to eliminate all other options. I was expecting that being a student here would be a good experience however it turned out to be so much better than I could imagine. What do you think of Estonians? Was it difficult at first living in Tallinn, finding local friends? Have you travelled around Estonia and seen other places and cities besides Tallinn? Countryside perhaps? It’s really hard to speak about a personality of Estonian nation. It took me more than a year to discover things that characterizes people here. Estonians don’t reveal their selves in the moment you meet them, but if you are willing to be patient and look deeper than you’ll probably discover great things. Estonians are rebel inside - calm on the outside; very hardworking, reliable, faithful towards their country Rebel inside - calm on the outside; very hardworking, reliable, faithful towards their country – these are the things coming in my head right now...typical Estonian would probably be taciturn but having a nice sense of humour; I think those two things go together perfectly – they don’t speak much but everything they say makes a good sense. It always takes time to get used of new place and new people but I would not say it was hard to find local friends. This week I’ve been working on a project in a team of 8 people: 7 Estonians and me. I think if you’re willing to be open it will not be hard to immerse into local culture here. I visited several places besides Tallinn. The most unique experience was going in Narva near the Russian border. I went in Tartu couple of times as well and was lucky to scuba-dive in Rummu lake last year. While living and studying here in Tallinn, have you also started to like something (or someone) that much, without which you cannot imagine your life anymore in the future? I think I became addicted on saunas. Saunas are not that popular in my country however here they are such a good part of my lifestyle. Well about someone – just one notion: Girls guys are really handsome here! Have you visited any local Georgian restaurants here in Tallinn? Is the Georgian cuisine here as good as in Georgia? Or is there anything that always reminds you Georgia here in Tallinn? Yes I have visited one of Georgian restaurant in Tallinn and food there was good (of course not as good as at my home...). They recently started to sell Churchkelas (Georgian traditional sweets) in the market next to the university; that reminds me home a lot. You are studying Human-Computer Interaction at Tallinn University. Why did you decide to choose this field of study? What is this programme all about? What is the main subject you concentrate during your studies? It’s a very wide area and you can choose many directions within. When I decided to apply for the program it was called Interactive Media, later on they changed the name. In few words I can say that it has much to do with Design, IT and digital media in general, including lots of psychological aspects, so it’s extremely interesting. Everything started by drawing, I never got an art education, however I was doing it as a hobby. Reason why I chose this program is that I wanted to put my skills in a wider scope probably. At university my main focus is interaction design (UX design). At university my main focus is interaction design (UX design). At university we are mainly working on different projects which we are delivering as a final course work. It’s very good because you are learning by doing and this way you are also building up a portfolio of your works. If you want to gain some practical skills you have to work on yourself a lot beyond the school... so not much free time here for me. Besides I’m really into storytelling and I am taking lots of subjects from the film school which is next to my faculty. I know I sound like a workaholic now but I’m really enthusiastic about these all. In your opinion, what makes studying at Tallinn University interesting? What are the best experiences from this university? It’s relatively new university and what I noticed and love here is that they are open to every new idea you bring in and that’s very important for any student I think. You are given a freedom to compose your own study plan and pick up as many electives as you wish. This gives you an opportunity to benefit from your university studies as much as you can. Do you find that Georgian young people prefer more to go abroad to study nowadays as opposed to staying home? Do different generations feel differently about gaining higher education abroad? It always depends what kind of experience they are searching for. Also in Georgia there are great study programs but I think those who don’t want to limit themselves on a Georgian job market prefer to go abroad and be open to international opportunities. Some think that foreign education gives you an advantage and you are more likely to get hired by international companies in Georgia. There are many young people who go abroad for studies in order to broaden their horizons but they are willing to return in homeland...in the end it depends on what you want. About generations... I don’t think that age matters when it comes about the way you look at things. There are many older people who find going abroad for studies as something good for your future, others think it’s just fancy and it’s not good to stay away from your land; people are different and of course opinions are different as well. What are the biggest differences between universities in Georgia and Tallinn University? Well firstly we don’t have that much international academic staff in Georgian universities as here at Tallinn University plus there are very limited choices of programs offered in English. Regarding academic freedom, it depends on the university some are very bureaucratic some prefer giving more freedom to students. I’d say as a student you can have quite rich cultural/student life there. Georgian people love having fun and most likely they will be glad if you are willing to enjoy their company and have fun with them. What are your plans after you graduate? Are you planning to go back to Georgia or perhaps further studies somewhere else? I don’t know yet exactly. Georgia is my home but right now I’m open to every good opportunity which pops up after graduation. I’ll gladly stay for some time if there is a chance of developing farther professionally. Besides I do have some plans but don’t really like talking in advance so let’s see how everything goes. Sometimes it feels that Estonians often think of themselves as the political advisors for Georgians (e.g. Estonian Development Cooperation with Georgia). Do you have the same impression or is it a myth invented by Estonians? Haha I have heard the same thing about Georgia and Lithuania when I was living there. But I think, in a way this myth about Estonia being an advisor for Georgia is actually truth. I think, in a way this myth about Estonia being an advisor for Georgia is actually truth.Georgia is focusing on being a part of European family; moreover I guess we do share the same political vision. (I’m not a political expert but this should be quite diplomatic answer) The Estonian-Georgian film “Tangerines” has been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars and was also among the five nominated films at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards for best foreign language film. It has been one of the most internationally successful films, involving Estonian filmmakers, in recent times. In Estonia the film is hugely popular and is receiving a lot of attention. What do you think of the film? Is Tangerines getting the same attention in Georgia? I saw “Tangerines” in Tallinn first time last year, but when I went back home in summer I noticed that film is also hugely popular in Georgia, so I think I’m not the only one who thinks that it’s a good film. Interview by Karolin Mägi.