Folkloristics and Applied Heritage Studies – Where are no Limits

Reyhaneh Ghoroghchian, a student from Iran, was interviewed about her experience of studying at the master’s programme “Folkloristics and Applied Heritage Studies” at the University of Tartu in Estonia.


Why did you choose to go to Estonia?

When I was applying for my master’s, I was sure that I wanted to study in Europe. I prefer to go to places off the beaten path that people know less about. Needless to say, my programme, Folkloristics and Applied Heritage Studies, was, I think, the most important factor that took me to Estonia, a small Baltic country. I chose Estonia because it seemed like such a great place in Europe with high living standards.

What are the things that you didn’t expect about the University of Tartu?

The ties between the professors and the students. They care about you more than you do. This friendship between the students and faculty members is phenomenal. I did not experience such a thing in my own country during my bachelor’s studies.

How did you prepare for applying to the programme?

The good thing about the application process is that everything is written clearly on the University of Tartu’s website. First, I checked the general requirements, and I needed to have proof of English proficiency and my bachelor’s degree. I deleted my social media platforms for two months to prepare myself for an IELTS exam. The minimum required score for UT is 6.0, with no part below 5.5, and my overall was 7.0. At the same time, I legalized my bachelor’s degree and transcripts of records, which are different based on your country of origin.

The application process is very straightforward; you need to upload all necessary documents to DreamApply. The whole website is very user-friendly. After submitting your documents and your motivation letter, there will be an interview where the interview panel will ask you some questions based on your motivation letter and interests. It is important to address the questions in the motivation letter that are mentioned on the website, like why you want to study this specific programme, how it can be related to your background studies, etc. I wrote my motivation letter based on my work background as a tour guide in Iran and my interest in intangible cultural heritage. The motivation letter yields 50% of their final score. Overall, I was surprised about how smooth the whole admissions process was.

Can you describe your field of study? Is it anything like what people assume it to be?

Folklore is all those little pieces of culture – songs, rhymes, games, stories, recipes, etc. – that make you a member of your group. I use those items to look at how a community grows and changes, what it keeps and discards, and how it defines itself.

Plenty of folklorists study fairy tales, legends, and folk remedies, the things people usually think of as folklore. But it’s so much more. I’m looking into the nomadic Persian carpets, their nomadic life, and the folklore behind the motifs of their carpets. My classmates research festivals, food, video games, and other various topics.

Folklore is all around us, and we live in it because it is the tidbits of culture we use throughout the day without thinking about it. It’s our informal, insider information that makes us part of a group, be that a bunch of friends, a village, a movie fan base, or any of a million other communities.

What are your favorite courses from your programme?

One of my all-time favorite classes this semester is called “Theoretical Conceptualizations of Folklore and Cultural Heritage.” This class has shaken the foundation of my thoughts in every possible way. We have discussed many different topics, from folklore to intangible cultural heritage and UNESCO policy. It has significantly expanded my vision of what cultural heritage is. Another course that I absolutely love is “Cultural and Religious Roots of the Middle East.” Since I am originally from Iran, I am generally well informed about my region, the Middle East, but this course has helped me to better understand this area from an outsider’s point of view. I worked as a tour guide in Iran for several years, and I know the history of my country. Still, being in the class and learning about my own country, culture, the religions in Iran, and the lecturer’s perspectives, was phenomenal.

What are the assignments and exams like at your programme?

We have many writing assignments for our classes. Most of the time, it comes out as a book review, response letters, and essays. We also had some empirical assignments, such as interviewing, which helped me a lot with overcoming my fear of interviewing people.

How would you describe your fellow students?

My classmates, better to say “My folklore family,” come from five different continents. I absolutely love learning about their culture, history, and their motherland. I honestly enjoy hearing them speak their native languages while speaking with their phones. Each of us has a different background of studies. The fact that we do not have any competition together, but we are all there for each other to complete a task, is very heartwarming.

Do you have a scholarship?

Based on my motivation letter and interview, I received the tuition waiver scholarship, which means that I don’t need to pay for my studies if I fulfill the academic nominal study load requirement. I want to emphasize the importance of the motivation letter that you have to submit in DreamApply, which helps you get to the other level, the “admission interview.” Your performances in these two are absolutely game-changers. Our specific programme offers this scholarship to five students who score the best based on admission ranking.

Do you live in the dormitory? What is living in the dormitory like?

I live in Raatuse 22. This dormitory is located only seven minutes away from my institute, and I love this short walk. Right next to my dorm, there is a grocery store called Selver, and there is Coop, literally three minutes walking. There is also a pharmacy and hospital almost in front of the dorm. Speaking of the dorm, people usually call Raatuse 22 a “party dorm.” I live on the sixth floor, and I think it is very calm. I have never heard any loud songs playing. Each flat in Raatuse has three rooms; each room is for two people. Our common area has a big kitchen, bathroom, and toilet, which are separated. I have a roommate from Russia, but you can even rent the whole room for yourself. That’s what the other two flatmates did. We are currently four people in a flat, and I am happy that we keep it very clean and pleasant.

What is the social scene in Tartu like?

Tartu is a small student town which I thought would be boring, but I was wrong! Although the size of this town is moderately small, I would say there is always an event in the city. The town hall of Tartu literally changes its scene with different seasons. There is always an event happening in the town. The presence of students with their different organizations and gatherings such as ISA, ESN, Student Unions, and each faculty’s gathering made this city very pleasant for me. I had a barbecue with some of my Iranian friends and even went to a Halloween party at another university in Tartu. Generally, coming from a huge city like Tehran, being in Tartu is very enjoyable for me.

What’s your #1 advice for future applicants?

If you are eager to study the same programme, let me give you some advice – dedicate a lot of time and energy toward your motivation letter. It can change your life! This letter plays a crucial role in determining if you will be accepted or not. It has some requirements, but above all, you just need to be honest and be YOURSELF!

Learn more about the Folkloristics and Applied Heritage Studies programme at the University of Tartu, Estonia, here. Join us for the Online Open Doors Week from February 28 – March 3 2022, and get to know more about international bachelor’s and master’s programmes, the admission process, and life in Estonia.