Grow with the Flow – an unforgettable summer experience in Estonia

Grow with the Flow - an unforgettable summer experience in Estonia

Last August our SU team at AEGEE-Tartu organised a magnificent Summer University that took participants on a unique journey focused on mental resilience, blending personal development with a deep dive into Estonian culture. From partying in the bustling cities of Tartu and Tallinn to enjoying the calm greenery of Estonian forests, participants from all around Europe got a real taste of Estonia. 

Through the eyes of our dear participants Isabel from Spain and Davide from Italy along with our lovely Dutch helper Loes, we offer you a little peek into the wonderful moments that made this Summer University truly memorable.

Why did you choose an SU organised in Estonia? 


Isabel: It’s a country that I didn’t know before but seemed really interesting and full of nature. Also, pictures looked amazing when I searched online and I loved the theme of the SU. 

Davide: The fact that Estonia was the northernmost SU was definitely one of my considerations. It was the second time moving to the North to run away from the heat of Italy. What made me choose Estonia the most, however, was the topic of mental health and the possibility to explore Estonian nature, something that I had never seen before. As Estonia is on the edge of Europe, I saw it as an opportunity to witness something completely different from Italy and other places in Europe. Also, people suggested that I come to Estonia because they had had a really good time here. 

Loes: I wanted to help organise an SU, and I had been to the A-Tartu SU as a participant the year before. I liked that SU and Estonia itself a lot, so I figured I’d offer my help here. :]

What surprised you the most about Estonia and its culture while attending the SU? Did it confirm or contradict the knowledge or assumptions you had before the SU?


Isabel: I really enjoyed learning about the history of the country like the influence of atheism and technological development while at the same time there’s a lot of nature. The heat in the summer contradicted my assumptions but I was really happy to get to know Estonia more in depth.

Davide: I would say that Estonians (or at least the people I met) are not as “cold” as people say. What really took me by surprise, however, was that the supermarket prices are much higher than in Italy. But at the same time, I felt that while I was in Tartu and Räpina life was more relaxed when compared to Italy. In Tartu, specifically, I was surprised in a positive way about the wooden buildings next to our accommodation where young families live to save money. They’ve built a tight-knit community to support each other and this was really heartwarming to see. Oh, and I made a quirky discovery – there is a street named “Meloni”, which amusingly reminded me of the Italian Prime Minister.

Loes: No real surprises. Everything I experienced was in line with what I had encountered on my previous visits to Estonia.

A peek into our adventures in Tartu: exploring the city and its surroundings, having fun at the pub crawl and European Night, and so much more

Throughout the SU, you had the chance to visit different places around Estonia. Which of these was your favourite and why?


Isabel: I loved Tartu. It’s a vibrant city with a student atmosphere and some interesting places apart from picturesque locations. I loved the days we spent there as I wasn’t sure what to expect and I loved what I found like the river beach and the city centre.

Davide: In Tartu, I enjoyed the quiet situation, not like Tallinn with a lot of traffic. There’s also a lot of greenery that you can enjoy, you can lie down on the grass and make a connection with nature. But if I had to choose my favourite place it would be Räpina because it was like staying in a private happy bubble. It felt like nature was protecting us from modernity and artificiality – just caring and taking time for ourselves, trying to love each other more. I loved the house of Saskia’s grandmother in particular. 

Loes: Probably Hundisaare/Räpina since I love being in nature, and campfire evenings.

The theme of our SU was mental resilience. What was the greatest lesson you learnt about this topic that you would like to apply in your everyday life?


Isabel: To stop and think about what is the best way to solve things and not to be so hard on myself.

Davide: I would say the meditation workshop – taking 5-15 minutes for myself, using chill music, sitting down in a proper way, breathing deeply, thinking about the memories of a person that I miss, finding inner happiness, helping me to have trust and hope in the future, to be more positive and move away the negative energy. 

Loes: I still use what I learned in the workshops by Maret about introspection from time to time. 

What did you learn about yourself during the SU? Do you feel the experience changed you somehow?


Isabel: That I’m more resilient than what I thought and this has given me more strength and optimism. 

Davide: Like in other European events, learning a new part of yourself is one of the reasons I tell people why they should join AEGEE. It’s important to listen to others since they have a different point of view. In this way, you can understand and learn more about the others and their culture but also about yourself at the same time, so you could resolve problems and face difficult situations in a better way. Those are the kind of things that could help you become a richer person. 

Loes: That I still like organising these things :’)

In the deepest depths of the Estonian countryside in Räpina: foraging in emerald forests, dressing up for countless costume parties followed by bonfire nights, and of course – savouring a true Estonian sauna experience

What was the brightest or most memorable moment of the SU?


Isabel: I really liked spontaneously going to the river to fresh up after the dance workshops and playing with the mud and swimming.

Davide: The circle of memories in one of the last days where everyone was sharing what they loved the most during the event, talking about their feelings and happiness, seeing them crying. 

Loes: The mushroom/bog walk

What was the most unexpected moment of the SU?


Isabel: I didn’t expect the karaoke that was improvised in the accommodation and it was great.

Davide: The chemistry that was in the group, especially towards the end of the SU. 

Loes: The Italians with their carbonara hahaha

How would you describe our SU in five words?


Isabel: Self-knowledge, Resilience, Happiness, Friends, Culture

Davide: Relaxing, Adventurous, Different, In the nature, Inner peace

Loes: Slow, Warm, Adventurous, Magical, Personal

If you could compare our SU to any fictional world, which do you think would resemble it the most?


Isabel: Maybe Narnia. We went into lovely places which were an adventure to many of us and there we discovered how to be more resilient and kind of grew up personally apart from making great friendship bonds. 

Davide: I would say “Scrubs”. We spent a lot of time laughing and having fun, making jokes. Compared to other SUs, this one was more reflective, making you think more about our lives and how to improve ourselves, sharing moral messages and values. When I think of a story that makes me laugh but at the same time cry, I would say “Scrubs” all the time. 

Loes: The Shrek cinematic universe 🙂 I don’t just say that for the meme, so here’s why. Shrek is first and foremost a story about learning to accept yourself (and others) for who you really are, for both your strengths and your weaknesses. To love even the “ugly” parts of yourself and come to realise they were never ugly in the first place. But it’s also about finding strength and solace in the people around you, growing from your past, and deeply enjoying the small or simpler things in life. These are all lessons we either explicitly went into during workshops or people discussed of their own accord, or both! And I mean do I even have to explain the hut in the forest/swamp parallel??

Tallinn with all its delights: exploring the Old Town, having a mediaeval lunch, singing our hearts out at the karaoke, and ending the event with an emotional circle of memories

Why should everyone participate in an SU and what advice would you give them?


Isabel: Because it’s not an experience you can have in any other way and you treasure the moments you live in your heart and remember them with fondness, thinking about the laughs, the connections made, the emotional moments, the friendship and the amazing places you visited.

Davide: Meeting new people and friends, making awesome memories, visiting new places, exploring a new culture, living an adventure, leaving your comfort zone, trying to improve yourself, enjoying food, interacting with different people, learning how to manage other people.

Advice for Italians – be prepared to make carbonara. But in general – have no expectations, just go there and have no idea about what could happen. Try to speak with everyone, not all the time but say a few words like how are you. Try to be as active as you can and interact not only with the participants but also the organisers. Try to sleep at times such as train or bus rides. Read carefully the booklet the organisers send about the activities and preparation for the event.

Loes: It’s a great way to really get to know all kinds of people you might otherwise never meet, while also doing fun and educational activities. My advice would be to go in with an open attitude and not be afraid to try new things, and keep in mind that AEGEEans are very accepting people so don’t worry about being yourself. <3

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