University: Riga Stradins University
Field of study: human medicine
Study type: Other courses
Sveiki! (Hello in Latvian;) )
I would like to share with you all the experiences I had in Riga, at Riga Stradins University and about the people there. First of all, to introduce myself, my name is Kristina Ulbach and I’ve been studying medicine at the RSU since January 2009 (so I’ve mastered 3 exciting semesters). Check liuxers.com to see Australia higher education.
Why did I start at RSU?
As probably most of you feel, it was my abiding “to blame” for ending up in Riga but maybe it was fate;) anyway I did some research on the internet, eventually came across College.com and sent me documents and traveled too to Latvia to see the university. The reason for my trip was also to eliminate any doubts that arose and of course to take away the fear. However, I forgot about this when I came to the previously arranged meeting with the dean, Prof. Zermanos. She took the time to get my questions out of the way and give me more information about university life in Riga. And that’s when I knew I’d try!
After the conversation with the dean, the secretary gave me a tour of the university. Some say the university looks like an old Russian building from the outside, but I think there is something nice about it (especially in winter when the building is illuminated). Giving away winter coats and summer jackets without paying a euro). We started with the library, which is quite small but has books in English, computers with internet access and printers.
Then we went to the canteen, there are three in total: The first is more of a small coffee. The second is bigger and you can get warm, fairly cheap but tasty food like mashed potatoes, meat and sauces. The third is a bit more expensive but more comfortable, there is salad, fruit, chocolate… Then we went to the individual departments, which are located on the respective floors. For example, Biology, Microbiology, and Parasitology rooms are on the first floor. There are a total of six floors, at first sight the university, where not only medicine is taught, appears huge, but after a few weeks of the initial period, the university campus is manageable.
The university is located outside the old town, on the other side of the Daugava, the river that runs through Riga and then flows into the Baltic Sea (speaking of the Baltic Sea, the sea is less than 30 minutes away by train or bus with a beautiful sandy beach). In any case, the university is easy to reach by bus or tram. However, students have to pay for public transport tickets themselves, but there is a student discount and tickets can be purchased at the university.
In addition, there is the Anatomikum which takes about 20 minutes. Located by tram from Uni and standing right in the heart of Riga not far from the Old Town. There we have anatomy, histology and embryology.
The orientation week…
In order to make it easier for the students to settle in, there is the orientation week. I have to say, one of the nicest weeks I had expected since I started my studies. Every prospective student was picked up from the airport and driven to the hotel. The “Riga Hotel”, my accommodation, which later became almost like my home, but more about the accommodation later.
The week started with a “scavenger hunt” through the old town and the winner (unfortunately not me : P) got the so-called “Rīgas Melnais Balzams”, which is a traditional Latvian liqueur. But I have to warn you that it absolutely doesn’t taste good! So no regrets not having won the scavenger hunt;) but having a lot of fun getting to know the old town and especially the other newcomers. Later there was a buffet with tasty treats and a lecture by the Dean, who began with this sentence: “Dear students, enjoy the time of the orientation week, because after that there will be no more holidays and free time, maybe two days at Easter… Don’t let that sentence intimidate you, but I have to say that the early days are no picnic.
The weekly tests, colloquia and exams are nerve-wracking and the learning mountain seems insurmountable, but it’s doable! And the feeling of passing the test, for which you have learned so much, is wonderful!
Over the next few days of the orientation week, we went bowling, ate at Ligo (a mill that has been converted into a traditional Latvian restaurant) and drank cocktails at Skylinebar (the bar is on the 26th floor, from which you can comfortably have a drink throughout Riga can see, beautiful!). Besides, Riga nightlife is also worth experiencing with all the bars in the old town and some clubs.
Everyday life at RSU…
So the orientation week came to an end and the studies could begin. The first lesson began with chemistry and Prof. Koksis, an ancient but warm-hearted man. Since we work in very small groups (10-12 students), you have closer contact with the professor, so you can ask questions, but it’s immediately obvious if you don’t show up for the lecture! On the one hand, we have lectures in which the professor gives lectures and conveys the study material that is largely required for the tests. The lectures are not compulsory, but it doesn’t hurt to make a good impression on the Prof if you attend regularly and show interest. On the other hand, there are the “practical classes” in which the tests are carried out and the students work actively on the topic.
For example, a normal practical lesson in anatomy in the first semester looks like this: First, a test, usually a picture test, is written about the material from the previous week. Then bones are taken from the laboratory and the Latin terms (eg caput costae – head of the rib) are worked through in small groups. If you have any questions, you can ask the professor. At the end of the lesson, each group presents a part where you can find the structure on the bone.
In any case, anatomy and biology are particularly important in the first semester at the RSU and we had to cram the most for these subjects.
Otherwise, the lectures and practical hours are mostly in the morning, but it depends on the timetable. Some days I had university until 6 p.m. But usually, it starts at 8: 00 or 9: 00 and goes until 15: 00 – 16: 00.
The following courses are taken in the first semester: biology, anatomy, chemistry, medical history, first aid, philosophy, Latin and Latvian. All courses are in English, with Anatomy in Latin – English.
The university offers apartments in student residences, but I can only advise against them. However, I can only report second-hand, since I have not lived there: the rooms are relatively small, there are shared bathrooms and showers and no kitchen. On top of that, the price is high for the standards (at that time it was 180 lats. ~ 260 €) and cleanliness is not the first priority either!
Another option, also offered by the university, is the Riga Hotel, where I spent my first semester. Also the price is 180lats, a room with bed, desk, wardrobe and private toilet and shower. The hotel has set up a separate level for the students with a large shared kitchen with dishes, kettles and fridges. However, if you like to cook and attach great importance to cleanliness, you will miss your own kitchen! Anyway, I found the hotel to be the best to start with as it’s right in the old town by the park and the National Opera (tickets start from just 10lats ~15€, even if you’re not into opera and ballet, it’s worth a visit ). In addition, you get to know other students very quickly in the hotel, even from older semesters who still live there.
I, however, moved into my own apartment after one semester with a friend who is studying dentistry at RSU. Together we pay €360 cold and have 102 m², the additional costs (Internet, water, etc.) are around €160 per month together, so that we come to around €260 individually, as in the hotel. However, the prices of the apartments vary depending on the location. We live quite centrally near the Anatomikum. Rent in Riga has also fallen due to the economic crisis, so it’s worth having your own apartment. And over time you get to know each other, so that a flat share is also an option.
In Latvia, bread and pastries are very cheap and tasty. But watch out: caraway is almost always found in brown bread!
If you like fresh fruit, vegetables and everything your heart desires at markets, then Riga is the place for you. There are three large market halls, one for fish and meat, the other for vegetables and fruit, the last for cheese and quark. Nevertheless, the prices are almost the same as in the supermarkets.
If you come in winter, pack your snow boots. It can get cold! In winter it gets down to -25 C with lots of snow and freezing cold. The days are short, it doesn’t get light until around 9: 00 a.m. and by 4: 00 p.m. it’s pitch dark. But the summer is all the brighter and warmer. It gets up to +29 C and the sun can be seen rising at 4 a.m. The park is planted with flowers and the water fountains are turned on, ideal for learning outside;)
The university has set up a football team, the boys seem to be having fun. For girls, however, nothing great is offered. There are enough gyms and tennis courts. Would like to go jogging, there is a park and for larger laps you can cross the river and back. This year I ran the half marathon in Riga, a great event and I would recommend it to any sports enthusiast!
I hope I was able to give you a little insight into the life of a student in Riga. Of course we spend a large part of the time studying, but those who choose medicine will approach it with interest… nevertheless, there is always a little time left for the city and the other students, who come from different countries such as Sweden, Norway and Come to England to get to know and make friends. This makes studying all the more enjoyable, especially abroad. If you don’t have any knowledge of English either, apart from those from school, you’ll get used to it quickly with the language! And if there are problems, there are enough students with the mother tongue who could come to the rescue. Overall, the relationship with the other students is very close because the groups are so small and the older semesters are also happy to help.
So good luck with your choice of place to study : )