Cultural distances towards Estonia and estonians on the example of Tartu University exchange students



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Tartu Ülikool



Every exchange student carries ones country and culture along anywhere they go. Every year the mobile generation is growing throughout the number of students participating in the Erasmus or other exchange programmes. Power of ambition and wish to learn something different drives students to experience life abroad. As the modern world demands, the Estonian organisations also need to keep up with globalization and get hold of more and more international students to come to Estonia. Exchange could not be successful without information sharing in between universities about different study possibilities that are eventually to be found by the exchange students. Many different channels are used for that – the home university, exchange students offices, web pages, Facebook, forums, YouTube, former exchange students, fares, ESN etc. etc. The numbers of incoming students are growing steadily in Estonia and also all around Europe - one of the main reasons for that is the good conditions created via the Erasmus programme and all other programmes supporting students to study abroad. The present thesis is divided into the following parts: firstly, a theoretical overview is given, followed by the empirical background of the same subject, but more localised on Tartu Universities results and statistics; secondly, cross case and within case analysis of the structured interviews is given. Ten exchange students and two experts were interviewed based semi structured method. The author interviewed ten exchange students from all over the world studing in Tartu University and also two experts on the matter adaption and adoption of students. This method proved to be the best as it answered the research questions and served well in explaining the main aim of this thesis: to find the cultural distance dimensions (on Hofstedes dimensions) compared to Estonians, meaning how the exchange students get adopted to the new environment and situation. The best and most profound answers for cultural differences and dimensions came up when interviewees were asked to compare their home land to Estonia or native people to Estonians or universities systems and student life. One of the main aspects that students are happy about is having the opportunity to make so many friends all over the Europe and also over the world. Exchange students lead a diferent life in Tartu, and anywhere else, than the local students- they have more free time, their classes are not that strict and they are all in a new situation, opened to new contacts. This all is part of being an exchange student, the more mobile ways and openess to new country and cultures, the wish to discover something new. The students who come to study in Estonia are a small part of a big mobility group and they tend to be the ones searching for more exotic and undiscovered countries, mostly countries they know very little of. Tartu University is interested in improving and having more incoming exchange students - good contact and support of the voluntary organisations and the preliminary plan for the next five years of the university clearly state that. Tartu University is doing all possible to adopt the exchange students into the univerisity- there are classes tought in English, academic staff speaks English, students are put to live with other exchange students. There is no direct need for the incoming students to learn Estonian or to make Estonian contacts, hence two basics to adapt better to society are voluntary, not implemented as it is in some countries. To conclude from authors part, this topic was of my great interest and many new research areas that deserve to be studied were found. There is a lot to do from state and universities part to make the exchange students feel themselves better and more integrated during their stay in Estonia, but in general they were happy to be here and they see that most of work has already been done. ESN has the human resources and casual student ways to improve the main area- integrating exchange students into Estonian student society. For the future: exchange students in Tartu are great subjects to study. Many fields on this topic are still undiscovered as the Erasmus phenomenon is not older than 21 years and the changes in Europe will appear clearer in the near future.


H Social Sciences (General), bakalaureusetööd