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ESTONIA - ISEP University of Tartu

The University of Tartu is the oldest and largest university in Estonia and one of the best known in Northern and Eastern Europe. 

Nature lovers will enjoy hiking around the old red sandstone, caves, rivers, wetlands, and beautiful parks of the city and skiers can experience the famous Tartu Ski Marathon. As a modern city with a rich historical heritage and culture, the many festivals, museums, Folk art days, exhibitions, and concerts provide plenty of entertainment.

This program is best for a student that is independent.  A student must be comfortable with advocating for themselves on campus to thrive in this location. Please be aware that there may not be the same access to internet or amenities to which you may be accustomed.  Student services and especially class registration may not be at all similar to what is done at the College and may be difficult for some students to adjust.

Learn More about the University of Tartu here! Read the ISEP Country Handbook to learn more about visa requirements, educational system, and culture.


To be eligible to participate in this program, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Good academic and judicial standing during time of application AND time of participation in program
  • Undergraduates must have completed at least two semesters of study at Lake Forest College AND have junior status or higher before participation. 
  • At least 18 years of age by the program’s departure date. 
  • Be able to stay at the host program for the duration of the semester, including through the exam and travel periods
  • Minimum GPA of 2.75.  

Students applying to ISEP must apply for an Exchange option (in any country) as a first choice but may apply to a Direct option as a back-up. Direct options may have an additional cost (see a financial section for more information).


The northernmost of the three Baltic States, Estonia has historically served as a crossroads between east and west. Situated on the shores of the Baltic Sea, with a population of about 1.5 million, Estonia is slightly larger than Denmark. Across the gulf lies Finland, Estonia’s closest neighbor linguistically and ethnically. Estonia offers a great case study of the successful transition from Soviet past to democracy and recent accession to EU. It is a modern country, with newest high-tech solutions, e.g. free wireless Internet can be found even in the town hall square of Tartu! 

Tartu, Estonia’s second largest city of 100,000, is situated in southeastern Estonia on the banks of the Emajõgi River, about 2.5 hours drive (186 km) from Tallinn. One of the oldest university towns in Europe, Tartu is home to the University of Tartu, the Estonian University of Life Sciences, the Baltic Defense College and some private universities. With a combined total of more than 20,000 students living in the city, Tartu can rightfully call itself a City of Youth and enjoys a unique atmosphere of a true European university town (YouTube video), young, vibrant, compact, safe. Tartu feels like one big campus and offers an ever-increasing number of theatres, nightclubs, galleries and other places of entertainment.


The University of Tartu offers several international programs taught in English especially recommended for ISEP students. In addition, many faculties offer a growing number of courses taught in English. The language center offers courses of Estonian and Russian as foreign languages. ISEP students are free to select courses from different programs and faculties to compile a study plan that best suits their needs.

Students typically enroll in classes worth 24-30 ECTS credits per term which average to 20 hours in class per week. A term runs for 16 weeks. Students must take 30 ECTS credits to earn the equivalent of 4 Lake Forest credits.


Language Courses: Students with a command of Estonian may select from the university’s available course offerings. Those wishing to pursue studies in Russian language and/or literature should have an excellent command of Russian - ISEP Language Proficiency Report is required. 

International exchange students generally study in English choosing English taught courses from different faculties. 

Courses taught in Russian
For Russian Language majors there is a Russian Studies program, i.e. courses in Russian language, literature, culture, and history (good command of the Russian language is required). 


The lists of courses taught in English and in Russian are available at: Courses taught in English. If the information about next academic year is not yet available, please check the course list for current academic year – many courses are taught every year. However, please keep in mind that there might be changes! To get further information about the course, its general description or syllabus, please use our Study Information System. To search for courses, you can use the numerical course code (course codes can be found from the list of courses taught in English).

Academic Environment and Teaching Style

For the direct-enroll courses at the University of Tartu, please understand that the academic system is quite different. Classes are usually lecture-based, instead of discussion or group work. Classes are often much larger than those found at Lake Forest College. Grades are based heavily, at times almost entirely, on one end-of-term exam, though some courses will also offer a midterm.  Professors are often more formal than those in the United States.

All courses/modules may have prerequisites.  Some departments may have limitations on numbers of courses that can be taken within or outside it.  Be aware of these limitations.

The language of instruction is usually Estonian. However, an increasing number of courses and programs are offered in English and other languages to promote international exchange. Performing academic studies in Estonian requires a good command of the language. Most universities offer Estonian language courses for international students as a pre study option or as part of a study program.

Oral and written examinations are held at the end of each semester during a four-week examination session. Academic achievement is graded under two systems: letter grades (A to F) and Pass/Fail. Regular examinations (exam) use a scale of A to F: An (excellent), B (very good), C (good), D (satisfactory), E (poor), and F (fail). Pass/Fail examinations (harvests) award a P (pass) or F (fail).

Please review the ISEP country handbook for more information on the education system.

Student Life

The University of Tartu (links to YouTube video), founded in 1632, is one of the oldest and most venerable research universities in the Baltic countries.The University of Tartu belongs to the top 3% of world’s best universities Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2013-2014. Approximately 18,000 students are enrolled, including about 800 international students representing about 70 countries. Facilities include a scientific library, a botanical garden, a computing center, five museums, and a modern sports center.


At the beginning of each semester, the International Student Service offers an orientation course (2-3 days) for all new international students. The course is designed to help international students get to know each other, the university and the town.
The course includes:

  • meeting the representatives of the University and the International Student Service;
  • introduction to the university’s study system;
  • tour of the university, the library and the town in general;
  • meeting the tutors;
  • covering of various practical issues.

All new international students receive a student helper (tutor) to help them with practical issues. Tutors are senior students who help newly arrived students to adapt to the academic environment at the University of Tartu. They are ready to give additional guidance and information on several matters, varying from studies to living conditions in Tartu. Students will be contacted by their tutor via email about 2-3 weeks before the beginning of the semester. 


Host will provide arrival directions with acceptance packet


During every semester there are a lot of student events: international food fest, international film nights, sledding, sauna days, bog walking weekends, and much more. The definite highlights of each semester are Spring and Autumn Students Days, filled with dozens of entertaining and educating events, competitions, and festivals. Tartu offers plenty of opportunities for sports and exercise: newly built University sports hall, several well-equipped gyms and fitness clubs, classes on yoga, step, aerobics, squash and tennis courts, bowling clubs, swimming pools. For those with talent, there is Tartu Academic Male Choir, Tartu University Chamber Choir, Alumni of Folk Ensemble of Tartu University, Tartu Student Theatre.

Tartu has numerous student clubs and associations, ranging from professional organizations to informal groups based on common hobbies and interests. ESN-Tartu (Erasmus Student Network) is an organization that aims to support international students of the University of Tartu. It works in close contacts with the Student Council and with the International Student Service. ESN-Tartu helps organize free time activities, such as sports events, trips, and parties, that all bring international students closer to local life.

Housing and Meals

Students are housed in double-occupancy rooms in a new residence hall (Raatuse Str. 22) located in the city center, within walking distance from the study buildings and the University Main Building. The dormitory consists of the units comprising 3 study bedrooms (twin rooms) with shared bathroom and kitchen. The rooms include essential furniture and blankets. Students are expected to bring (or rather buy in Tartu) their own pillow and bed linen. Cookware is not provided by the dormitory but quite often necessary cookware from previous tenants is in the kitchen. If not, students are expected to buy their own. A meal stipend is provided. 

Financial Information

For all approved programs for guaranteed financial aid transferability, students pay their Lake Forest College tuition plus a program fee. The program fee for a semester with the ISEP Exchange program includes orientation, on-site director, college fees, housing and a stipend to cover the equivalent of 19/meals per week.

ISEP costs for Exchange are usually the most cost-effective, as it is intended to promote mobility of students around the world. Direct options are available for those students that prefer to attend a school with limited availability for Exchange, though costs may be different as they are set by the host school. For students that participate in ISEP Direct, the program fee includes all of the above plus insurance. However, the program fee may be different than that of Exchange.

Here is an estimated budget for the Fall 2018/Spring 2019 programs:

Budget Item





Lake Forest College Tuition



Program fee (estimated)

Note: Spring may have added cost



Total Expected Billed by Lake Forest College



ISEP Fee due on Stage 2 Application



ISEP-required health and repatriation insurance (estimated, $90/mo)

Note: Some countries require national insurance. Check ISEP



Additional Meals



Estimated Airfare

*Students placed on ISEP Exchange may be eligible for up to $750 airfare award



Estimated Personal Expenses (passport, visas, immunizations, textbooks, supplies, personal expenses, additional national insurance if required, travel insurance, additional travel etc.)



Total Out-of-Pocket Expenses






Tuition rates and program fees are subject to change each year, but this information was up-to-date as of February 2018. We will notify applicants, and update this page if the program fee or other estimates change.

You can discuss with Financial Aid your specific aid package and your expected family contribution.

Keep in mind that you may spend more or less in certain areas like personal expenses, travel, meals, or airfare, depending on exchange rates and your own spending habits. Classroom or lab fees are not included in this estimate and will depend on your course registration choices.  

Don’t forget to apply for scholarships! A great listing can be found here.  

  • Contact:

    For Questions About the Initial Application Process:

    Alexandra Olson
    Coordinator of the Global Engagement Office