DDoris Poolamets: "It’s the people who create a student town"

Karoliina Arus

The Opinion Festival, which has been held for more than ten years, is traditionally located in the heart of Estonia in Paide. The same debate festival format has also been tested from Narva to Southeast Estonia and from Viljandi to Hiiumaa. For the first time, the festival will be held in Tartu, which will take place internationally. At the Festival, we will also discuss student life with other student cities in the discussion called “What makes a good student city?”. 

Karoliina Arus, a HEDF volunteer, interviewed Doris Poolamets, who is the President of The Estonian Medical Students’ Association and the speaker of the discussion. 

How would you define the word student city, what does it mean to you?

A student town is a place where students have come together – people are the ones who create a student town. Especially those people who lead the student groups and events. In Tartu, for example, student fairs and our Student Days have an important place, along with fraternity life. For me, the organization that makes Tartu a student city is The Estonian Medical Students’ Association. Associations and their events are what make the student period one that you will look back on later in life.

What makes Tartu a student city in your opinion?

The student spirit of Tartu is created by the events that take place here. That is unique for Estonia. Tartu student associations have created good opportunities so that students can get together and do something great. It is especially unique and important that students from different fields get to spend time together. 

In the aim of making student life better, the Faculty of Medicine for example is working to create a unified campus where everything is close at hand and you see your fellow students every day. Even if the lectures are not together, you can still see people and that is very important.

In addition to meeting new people, a student city is created by the vast opportunities for developing yourself. For example in Medicine, even if your main topic is not laboratory work, you are often given the opportunity to develop yourself in this area and still do internships in the laboratory or even go to work.

What still needs to be developed so that students and their activities and studies are well supported?

Students should be able to move more conveniently – should the classes take place on one campus or in adjacent buildings? If lectures take place on different campuses, it is difficult to move quickly between them.

Other problems are specific to different majors, for example we have to develop medical internships. How can we make sure that the future workforce has specialists in the field who have gotten the initial experiences through an internship? How to prepare students for working life so that everyone has similarly good experiences?

The last important topic that sums up the others is student welfare. There are many problems, for example, the fact that many have to work in addition to their studies in order to get by. This leads to burning out. It is sad that there are majors that receive more scholarships than others. It gives the impression that only people who study IT are valued, when in fact medical and social science students are also needed. 

Another example is student residences and their maintenance and eating facilities. If the student residences are in order and the canteens have special offers for students, the students would be able to focus more on their studies and social life. This could also help by preventing mental health problems. 

What do you think is good in Tartu from a student’s perspective?

The good thing is that we have different student associations. The university heads listen to our opinions and they are also considered. The students are ready to develop the system, the dean’s offices have also shown initiative, at least in my experience. There is a willingness to carry out changes at higher levels as well. The main thing is that young people are involved and we are asked for our opinion.
How are the working opportunities for students in Tartu?
There are great opportunities in the Faculty of Medicine, but not many faculties have it. In our field, you can start a job related to your profession early. After the first year, it is possible to become a hospital caregiver, after the third year you can become a nursing assistant and after the fourth year a physician assistant.
Of course, sometimes you have to go to another city, because the Tartu University Hospital is full of specialists and there are many residents. Therefore, students go to Tallinn, Põlva, Võru or Rakvere. There are opportunities, but students have to find the work themselves, because vacancies are not advertised to all students. As a freshman, it is usually difficult to find a job, because hospitals are looking for specialists. Other students mostly go into the service sector or any kind of job they can find. 


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