Life of a Computer Science student in Estonia.

We, Estonians are proud of our IT accomplishments. When we meet a foreigner then one of the first things we usually say to somehow position ourselves is that “We made the Skype”. That’s true and we also have properly working e-government, e-banking etc.

Life seems to be all like flowers and rainbows as we have internet everywhere and everything can be done online. That puts a lot of pressure on developers and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) students as expectations and demand for more is high.

I am in my final year in Bachelors studies in Computer Sciences (basically same as IT) in University of Tartu and I can tell you that it has not been easy two years. Not because of the curricula but because of the education system and the environment.

First point, education system, is easy to explain: if one studies well enough to get scholarship then you would assume that life is manageable without going to work during school. Scholarship though is 55,93€ per month – that will only get you fed for that period. But you also have to live somewhere (cheapest way if you don’t live with parents is dormitory – 95€ per month) and I personally would like to visit my parents at least twice or thrice a month (bus tickets in total ~30€, though transportation compensation from government in 28,13€, so that will do). To manage while studying well one does still have to work/get money from parents/take a study loan. For me, to start adulthood with taking a loan sounds quite wrong, but this is the way the government sees it to be right I guess.

The second point, environment, is quite well linked with the first point. Student would need money from parents or go to work to manage somehow during studies. Fortunately or unfortunately there are a lot of companies that are in need for more IT personal and students are tempted by them from the first year in University (mailing list full of job offers and posters in faculty building). Of course from a glimpse it looks good – students need the money and place to work and they are offered that. The dark side of the situation is that as students are well enough paid (though the numbers would not satisfy them years later), they start losing interest in studying and don’t finish Bachelors studies because of that. Some statistics – in last few last years around 20% ICT students finish their Bachelors with nominal 3-years. That though leads to lack of true IT professionals which is the problem that originally University was supposed to eliminate.

Although as ICT students don’t have to worry about their financial future, they have to make choices from the first year of their studies. Unfortunately in larger perspective one has to choose between bad and worse until changes are made in the system.

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