A cultural melting pot, with influences of Finnic, Baltic, Slavic, and Germanic peoples, Estonia may be small in size (with a population of 1.3 million) but massive in creative and innovative energy.
The former Soviet Union country has opened up to the world like no other, defining itself as one of the most important tech hubs in Europe. Startup Estonia, a local government’s initiative, is determined to lead the country into success by welcoming foreign citizens into the Estonian Mafia family. (Yes, this is how the local startup community is known.)
For interns in the tech industry, Estonia is one of the few European countries where you can immerse yourself in the same forward-thinking environment of Silicon Valley, that in Estonia has birthed major, disruptive brands like Kazaa, Skype, and TransferWise.
Not only do local companies make it easy for you to join them, but they are eager to learn from you and evolve with you.
Estonia was considered the number one entrepreneurial country in Europe by the World Economic Forum in 2016 and ranks third in the number of start-ups per capita. It’s not just about interning to achieve your career goals, it’s about being immersed in this environment of innovation.
In a country where Internet access is considered a basic human right since 2000, and one that BBC called "the next Silicon Valley," software developers are always in demand in Estonia -- and in all imaginable areas, too.
From local start-ups to internationally-known tech companies like TransferWise, Skype, or Pipedrive, full-time internships are not hard to find for English-speaking developers.
In the European wonderland of startups (Estonia currently has around 450 companies registered and plans to reach 1,000 by 2020), marketing specialists are next in the list of essential employees.
If your dream is to intern in a fast-paced, creative environment, but in a more relaxed (and affordable) city than San Francisco, Tallinn is looking at you. Besides, climbing the corporate ladder in Estonia is a lot simpler and faster than elsewhere -- in case you want to stick around long-term.
Finance & Accounting
Internships available in this area are not as abundant as the tech-focused jobs but that doesn’t mean that Estonian startups aren’t looking for interns in finance and accounting.
Startups are expected to deliver fast and grow even faster, so the challenge (and thrill) for an expert in finance and accounting is in helping all of this happen. You won’t be just crunching numbers or losing sleep over endless spreadsheets, you’ll be levering the company’s future.
Planning Your Internship
Moving overseas to intern in Estonia may sound phenomenal, but before you embark on this life-changing experience, here are a few tips to help you plan your internship abroad.
Best Time to Get an Internship in Estonia
Internships in Estonia are available all year long, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start looking earlier so you have enough time to plan your trip. You can approach searching for an internship in two ways: either contact the company you’d like to intern at directly (look at Startup Estonia to see all existing companies in the country) or browse the ads of startups offering internships in all areas (find internships on websites like Startus, updated regularly and easy to navigate).
Monthly rent in Tallinn in a less expensive area can range between €430 ($502) for a furnished studio, to €650 ($760) for a bigger furnished apartment. The rent usually doesn’t include utilities.
Housing will definitely be the biggest portion of your budget, even if you choose an affordable area of the capital city or in a suburban area. If your employer or your internship program provider doesn’t cover housing, cut costs by looking for a room in shared apartments for students and interns on websites like 1Home.
Cost of Living
Most of the information on the cost of living pertains to life in the capital city, Tallinn. Living outside the city center will cost less, but budgeting with the highest prices can help you put things in perspective.
While eating in will be significantly cheaper (€200-250 or $230-290 should be enough to cover your monthly supermarket expenses, around €50-60 or $60-70 a week on average), if you opt for lunching outside pick a basic lunchtime menu that costs around €8 (less than $10) and usually includes a main dish and a drink.
Utilities range from €100 ($116) to €200 ($233) a month, on average, depending on the size of the house and how many people live in it. Getting around is easier (and cheaper) by public transportation, with the monthly pass costing under €25 ($29).
Non-EU citizens working in Estonia for up to 6 months in a year must apply for a D-visa. Make sure your employer has registered your short-term employment both with the Estonian Police and the Border Guard Board.
If your work internship period is longer than 6 months, then you must apply for a temporary residence permit, which will be valid for up to 2 years.
Estonian workers leave family life at the door when they come to work, so refrain from unsolicited small talk by the water cooler. (Unless, of course, they bring the topic up. Even so, keep it short and factual.)
Of course, with the disruptive and multicultural corporate environment caused by startups, the most prudent approach is to get your bearings first to avoid misunderstandings. Get that on-site perspective of what the company environment is really like or ask a colleague or your employer of what's preferred in terms of employee behavior.
Unlike other more rigid organizations in the corporate world, Estonian companies appreciate and reward employees’ contributions and leadership skills, regardless of seniority. Climbing the so-called corporate ladder is done a little faster here and is highly encouraged.
Health & Safety
Check with your employer or your internship program provider if you’ll have access to the EHIF (the Estonian Health Insurance Fund). Even non-EU citizens can benefit from this, as long as you have an employment contract and your employer pays social taxes for employing you. Besides this, you’ll also have the option to register at your local clinic and have a doctor assigned to you.
Crime rates in Estonia are very low, but there’s hardly a country or city in the world that’s completely void of trouble. Besides the usual precautions you must have with pickpockets and learning which areas in a city are more problematic, there is very little to worry about when it comes to safety in Estonia.