University: Riga Stradins University
Field of study: medicine
Study type: Other courses
My experience report applies to the Riga Stradins University in Riga, Latvia. My name is Jesko and I’ve been studying human medicine in Riga since the 2011/2012 winter semester. Like most others, the experience reports at Collage-Contact helped me to decide to study in the Baltic States, which is why I would like to share my personal experiences from six months in Riga below. The experience report mainly relates to life as a medical student. If you want to know more about culture, weather and data about Latvia and Riga, I recommend that you look around on the Internet, there are a lot of sites with the right information. Check mcat-test-centers.com to see 8 things you need to know before studying in Germany.
The city of Riga
Riga is beautifully situated near the Baltic Sea on the Daugava River. The city has about 900,000 inhabitants. As a medical student, you will only be in two places, at least in your undergraduate studies, the university and the Anatomikum, the anatomical institute, which is why the size of the city does not seem so important at first, since the distances are small. But what is important is the fact that Riga, as the capital of Latvia and the largest city in the vicinity, is the center of cultural and economic life. What I mean to say is that Riga has everything you could want. is used to from the German homeland: there is good local transport, the density of restaurants, supermarkets, discos, fitness studios and other leisure facilities is large. The part of Riga that is inhabited by most students of the RSU is relatively small, i.e. comparable to a student town, similar to Münster. All important institutions, with the exception of the university, are within walking distance. This makes it much easier to start your new life abroad, you find your way around quickly and avoid long, stressful journeys.
Since Riga is the capital, however, it must be noted that rents and prices are by no means lower than in Germany. On the contrary: Eating and drinking can sometimes be more expensive here than in Germany because many products are imported. Supermarkets in particular can be expensive. In particular, I noticed the higher prices for cosmetics and clothing. There is the possibility to go shopping at the central market, it is cheaper there, but only food.
Rents depend on the location and equipment of the apartment. As in Germany, the closer to the center or in the center, the more expensive and the bigger the more expensive. In the old town you have to calculate with 8 euros/m² cold, if you leave the old town, it is significantly cheaper. However, the additional costs are very dependent on the weather, in winter they can be 1/5 – 1/2 of the rental price due to rising heating costs.
The university is a bit outside of the city and is easy to reach by public transport. It takes about 20 minutes by train from the old town. Buses are sometimes faster, sometimes slower, always depending on the traffic and the station you are leaving from.
The campus is relatively small and consists of only two building complexes, the main building and the dental faculty. The main building contains several sub-buildings, all of which are connected, which significantly shortens the distances between two possible course locations. Orientation is difficult at the beginning, but you quickly find your way around. As I said, since the building is relatively small, you cannot get lost. In addition, the canteen was renovated and reopened in the last six months, where you can get coffee, snacks, drinks and some warm dishes in the free hours. However, the canteen is very limited in terms of what is on offer, the warm dishes are only delivered and kept warm, not cooked there. This means that by 1 p.m. most hot dishes may already be out of stock.
Some of the buildings themselves are in need of renovation, but this was recognized and some of the rooms have already been renovated (as of 2012). Unfortunately, such a process takes a little longer, which is why you sometimes still learn in unrenovated rooms. It’s not very aesthetic when the plaster is crumbling off the wall, but all of the university’s rooms and institutes are modern, have internet connections and projectors for presentation purposes. When choosing where to study, you also have to take into account that Latvia was communist 20 years ago and therefore there is a lot of catching up to do when it comes to the renewal of technical equipment and the renovation of buildings. But I think that’s secondary as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the students’ education, and it doesn’t.
In conclusion, one can actually only say that the equipment at the university does not meet German standards, but is still sufficient to teach the basics of medicine.
I have decided to introduce this sub-item because I think that the supervision at the university deserves special mention. The university seems to have adjusted well to international students, there is an extra international office that takes care of the needs of international students. The team speaks perfect English and is made up of local Latvians, which is important as they are familiar with Latvian customs, as well as being able to communicate perfectly with international students and there are no language barriers.
The team organizes orientation weeks for newcomers, including shuttle transport from the airport, plans lectures and excursions in the Baltic States and Russia and organizes “International Evenings”. In addition, they take care of the necessary formalities when entering Latvia (residence permit) and important deadlines of the university administration. If you have any questions or problems, you can contact the team at any time, they will help as far as they can (e.g. let the legal department look through the rental agreement before you sign it).
The support is very good, I have never experienced anything like it, and it makes life abroad and studying medicine much easier.
I would now like to write about the most important aspect of this review, because of course study is the main reason to be interested in Riga Stradins University. In the meantime, the international program has become relatively large, ie many students. In the summer of 2011, around 160 students began their medicine/dentistry studies in Riga. Approximately 60% of them are German, which does not limit the international character of the course, however. The groups are usually divided in such a way that as many different nationalities as possible learn together. In addition, the groups are pleasantly small, 8-11 people per group, so that a very good learning atmosphere is achieved. The small group size enables good contact with lecturers and personal support. English will be the language of instruction throughout the course, so good knowledge of English is important. Also because some of the lecturers can only be understood with a good knowledge of English and of course because the entire literature is in English, apart from Latin terms in anatomy.
Studies at the RSU are divided into two sections, similar to Germany. Basic medical knowledge is taught in the first four semesters, after which clinical knowledge is taught. At the moment I can only write something about my experiences in one semester, but I hope that these experiences give a good impression.
In the first semester, students at RSU study anatomy, molecular biology, cell biology, chemistry, physics, first aid, Latin terminology, Latvian, intercultural relations, ethics, medical law and an introduction to scientific research.
However, the courses are very different in their structure, not every course is completed with a final exam and some courses, such as physics, anatomy, last two or more semesters. Some courses, such as anatomy, are offered throughout the semester, while other courses are one-day or three-to-five-week consecutive courses, spreading the workload for the courses throughout the semester. All courses consist of a lecture and a group course, so that the knowledge gained in the lecture is repeated, explained and deepened. In some cases, the lectures are only supplements to the course in which the knowledge relevant to the exam is taught. Really big final exams at the end of the semester are only written in anatomy, cell biology and chemistry.
As already briefly mentioned, the courses are the central element of the studies, most of the time is spent in the groups and the teaching is like in school, only with a much better relationship between lecturer and students. Through personal contact you can really learn very effectively. Unfortunately, this also has a negative aspect, since the lecturers sometimes evaluate very subjectively. Personally, I haven’t suffered from it, but you can tell that students are treated differently. Quite a few lecturers were socialized in the communist era and value hierarchies and appropriate behavior. This includes punctual appearance, well-groomed appearance, regular participation in the courses. Personally, I don’t think that appearance should be decisive when it comes to to get a good grade, but you have to accept it. Criticism is really only allowed in exceptional cases and is usually understood as a personal attack on authority. Piercings or the like are perceived by some lecturers as unkempt and should be removed in oral examinations if possible.
However, if you stick to the rules, you can learn very well with the lecturers, provided that you have learned.
If these descriptions are a deterrent, it does not do justice to the course. It is usually enough to talk to the higher semester students before the courses start to find out what the lecturer values.
I should mention here that the first semester is structured very “fairly”, which means that the balance between free time and study effort is moderate. You have to do something every day, but you still have enough time to acclimatize and settle in and also to go on a trip or celebrate at the weekend. Courses initially seem harder than they are. I can only say from my experience that if you study regularly, you shouldn’t have any problems passing the first semester.
It may be important for Germans who are interested in a change that you cannot change after the first semester because you only do an equivalent final exam in chemistry. This means that you “have to” study here for at least two semesters.
Half a year ago I decided to go to Latvia to fulfill my wish to study medicine there and I have to say that I don’t regret going to Riga. The care is really very good, the city is international, the contact with Latvians and other internationals is good and you get the specialist knowledge you need to be able to work as a doctor. The difference to German universities is not measurable as far as theoretical knowledge is concerned, and as far as technical equipment is concerned, it is noticeable, but not particularly significant. What is much better is that the teaching is international and the English vocabulary is used, so that after completing your studies you could also work outside of Germany.
So I can only recommend anyone who really wants to become a doctor, cannot do so in Germany or would rather do an international degree to apply to Riga Stradins University.