Davide is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Film and Media at Tallinn University. He found the programme and enrolled via Studyportals. We asked Davide about his experience of searching and applying to a university abroad.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?
My name is Davide Abbatescianni, I am 24 years old and I am from Bari, a coastal town of southern Italy. Before moving abroad, I have spent 22 years of my life in my hometown, constantly working and studying.
Where are/were you studying and what programme? What degree and how long is your programme?
In 2013, I graduated in Communication Studies BA at University of Bari Aldo Moro. The study programme took three years and mainly focused on journalism, semiotics, literature, pedagogy and media studies. I wrote a final dissertation in Film Semiotics, analyzing the impact of theatre, television, and circus in Federico Fellini’s filmography. During the same three years period, I achieved a Professional Diploma in Stage Directing at ITACA – International Theatre Academy of the Adriatic and worked as a director, actor, assistant director for theatre and film.
Why did you want to study abroad?
There are many different reasons. In order to summarize my motivations, I would say that I made this decision because I was dissatisfied with the theoretical approach of Italian university system, I wanted to start my career in a better work environment and I felt the urgent need to broaden my horizons.
Deciding for a university
What were your main priorities when choosing your university and your programme (e.g. academics, accommodation, university services & facilities, personal & professional development, city & culture, cost & funding, practicalities, social life)?
At the moment, I am a 2nd-year student at Tallinn University Baltic Film and Media School in Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. My study programme is Documentary Film/Television MA. I have been always fascinated by Northern Europe and its renowned university systems. Scandinavian countries provide very good education in many academic fields, but living costs are quite prohibitive. Estonia is a new Nordic country, with ascending economy, high quality of life and lower living costs. Tuition fees, scholarships, and university services allow me to study in an excellent academic environment quite cheaply.
Was this your first study choice? What other universities did you consider? What was the main reason for your final choice?
Yes, this was my first and only study choice. I have been informed about the existence of Baltic Film and Media School thanks to my dear friend Domenico, who previously studied with me in my theatre academy and attended Tallinn University Summer School in 2013. Then I decided to collect in a timely manner all the necessary information in order to be sure about my choice. In December 2013 I visited Tallinn and the film school. I literally fell in love in with both.
Did you know from the start that you wanted to study in that particular country and city? Why did you choose this particular location?
As I said, Northern Europe was in my mind since my high school years. Estonia is a good compromise between quality of studies and living costs.
How did Studyportals help you in your decision process?
I was able to find information about the study programmes and read some reviews on Studyportals. I also checked the deadlines for applications and enrollment procedures on your website. Luckily, I had all the requirements to apply for the film school and after the due considerations from the committee, I have been admitted in August 2014.
Did you take a language test (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS) when applying for the programme? If yes, which one did you choose, why and how was your experience with it?
I took the IELTS Academic Test in May 2014. Tallinn University’s institutes accept many English proficiency certifications, such as IELTS, TOEFL and CAE (B2 and C1 level). In the end, the exam went pretty well. IELTS puts you continuously under pressure and requires a very high level of attention.
What would be your advice for students from your country that consider studying abroad?
I would suggest: to choose carefully the country and its cultural context. I was able to prepare myself to the “Big Change” thanks to readings, websites, and social networks. Being informed about every single detail of the hosting culture is the first step to accept the new order of things and, eventually, become an active part of the new community. I am still in the middle of this process. The so-called “culture shock” has ended but my studies about Estonia helped me a lot to adapt to the new environment. This is the only suggestion I could offer to the future students.
How did you finance your stay abroad and what financial advice would you give to future students?
In the first months of my stay, I have spent my savings, which were basically part of my previous incomes that I earned in Italy. Later on, I was able to find two part-time jobs as a freelance researcher for an American company in the field of media studies and copywriter. These jobs fully cover my living expenses. I would definitely suggest to come abroad a couple of months before the beginning of the studies to look for a good part-time/online job. In Estonia, there are good opportunities in the sectors of tourism, media, IT and marketing. The knowledge of local languages – primarily Estonian and Russian – is very useful, but not indispensable.
Why would you (not) recommend this particular city / university? How would you rate your experience on a scale from zero to ten (0 – It was a total disaster, 10 – I had the time of my life)?
I would definitely recommend Tallinn. This city is vibrant, technologically advanced, extremely neat and pretty safe. Furthermore, public transport is totally free for residents and students. Tallinn University provides excellent education, is meritocratic and hosts many international lecturers and students. It is a very young university, but the quality of the research is improving as well as its quantity. For this reason, I am planning to apply for a doctoral programme in order to further my studies. This experience surely deserves a score of 10 out of 10. My life has completely changed, I have met the girl I love and I live with her in our own flat, I am learning many practical and theoretical skills, I am sending my first works to film festivals, I am living in an international academic environment, I am travelling all over Europe and I have a nice job. I did lack all these things in Italy.
Is there anything that you would do differently if you could do it over again?
I would certainly have started studying Estonian earlier. Actually, I have not started yet due to my study and work commitments. On the other hand, I am now learning Russian language.
What was the biggest surprise in your study abroad adventure?
Moving abroad and starting a new life was a bit easier than expected. I do miss home and sometimes I feel a little low – I guess it is normal – but in the end I know that my life is here and is dynamic, stimulating, with open prospects. I am learning and achieving new goals. That is why I really enjoy studying and living in Tallinn.
Were you inspired by Davide's story?