University: Riga Stradins University
Field of study: human medicine
Study type: Other courses
I have been living in Riga since the end of August 2013 and am studying medicine at Stradins University here. First things first: I feel good here!
The Decision Making
Like most people, I originally wanted to study medicine in Germany, but the hochschulstart.de foundation thwarted my plans. In conversations with my family, the topic of going abroad came up, which I hadn’t even thought about up until then. A quick search didn’t reveal a lot of options: most countries required a third natural science or something similar in the Abitur. Inevitably, the focus ended up on Eastern Europe. Since I went to school bilingually and had wanted to study in English since the 5th grade, I looked for English-language courses. The MicroEdu website helped me a great deal with this. I chose Riga. A city I knew absolutely nothing about up to that point. I even had to look for Latvia on the map first! The decision between RSU and LU (Latvijas Universitate) was made in favor of RSU after an information afternoon at MicroEdu in Münster and based on the reports on the internet. And I have to say I have no regrets! Check toppharmacyschools.org to see University of Newcastle study abroad opportunities.
The university’s website is very clear and informative, and MicroEdu was also a great help with my application! Great praise and a big thank you to Ms. Kutzler! When the confirmation came by email, I didn’t really know whether I should be happy or not. Eventually I would go abroad; a thought that only then really dawned on me. The message “Hey, I got a place in medicine! In Latvia.” My friends were confused and had interesting facial expressions, because none of them knew where Latvia was. It was different with my grandparents, because if you do a little research, you find out that everyone knows someone who has been to Riga!
With two large suitcases and a one-way ticket we went to Riga.
In advance, I booked myself into the Best Hotel for a month and also registered for the free transfer there from the university. In any case, the international office of the university tried very hard to make the arrival as smooth as possible for all of us.
Already at the starting airport I met the first future fellow students and in the terminal in Riga there should be many more! The first impression: it’s not so different here than in Germany and the people all tick like you! So I felt at home here right from the start.
The following day, Orientation Week started, a week full of fun events (scavenger hunts, paintball, castle trip) designed to make it as easy as possible for us to get started and to socialize.
Even if I felt a little queasy at the beginning (after all, I was 1300km away from home! And all by myself in a foreign country whose language I didn’t speak…), everyone distracts each other, because everyone feels the same way.
Studying at RSU is fundamentally different from studying at German universities. Lectures do not determine the timetable here, but so-called classes, i.e. lessons in small groups. Right from the start you are in a study group of around 10 students with whom you will continue your studies together. The whole thing is structured like a school, including regular small tests and performance reviews. The lectures are also more manageable than in Germany: instead of 400, you sit in a lecture hall with 200 students, which makes a difference.
The whole course is more intimate, the professors address the students by their names; you are a human being and not one of many here in Riga. Of course, this also has “disadvantages”: lazing around is not so good here, because it is immediately noticeable if you are the only one of 10 people who has not done your homework… On the other hand, you are “forced” to study here and therefore have your own fabric on it. This also makes it easier to repeat for the exam at the end of the semester, because you don’t have to cope with a huge mountain, but have already mastered everything. I would not say that the training here is worse than in Germany, in fact quite the opposite! I can imagine that if you move back to Germany (possible after the 4th semester, i.e. the physical equivalent),
In retrospect, the first semester is relatively relaxed, if you exclude the entry (if you haven’t studied before, as in my case) and the exam phase. In these times you can despair of the amount of material, but once you get the hang of it, it goes by itself. Please don’t get it wrong: Medicine doesn’t study itself, you have to spend a lot of time for this subject (especially anatomy and Molecular Biology!), but I’m sure anyone considering this course knows that. But even when you’re in despair, because everyone here is in the same boat, you help each other. That’s the nice thing about this university: very few come here directly after their Abitur, almost all of them tried it in Germany first and then moved here.
In terms of language, the course can be mastered by anyone who has completed English school with good grades. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to understand the professors because many of them don’t speak the best English. However, one must not forget that English is the mother tongue of very few here (students and lecturers). All in all, communication works well with everyone!
A special feature of the university should also be mentioned: the Anatomicum. A building away from the actual university, dedicated only to anatomy. This is where the anatomy lessons, the dissection and a large part of the free time take place in the first semester. Because here you can borrow anatomical preparations such as bones during the day and study with them in peace.
Life in Riga
Riga is not much different from any German city. With around 700,000 inhabitants, Riga is not a province, but it doesn’t feel as huge as, for example, Cologne or Berlin. Most of it takes place in the center and the old town and here you can reach everything on foot in a maximum of 20 minutes. Otherwise there is an excellently functioning public transport system, which is also not expensive for students.
In general, Riga is very westernized: you can get along well with English everywhere, there are German groceries, you can now pay with the euro and as a foreigner you are not treated derogatory. At first glance, the Latvians may appear to be an unfriendly people, but that is deceptive! Over time you realize that the people here rarely laugh, are very reluctant to give you change in the supermarket and are silent on the train. Latvians are friendly, but in an honest, down-to-earth way. And if you adapt to that, then you won’t be looked at strangely from the side here either.;-)
I personally think Riga is beautiful, I like living here! Especially around the old town there are many Art Nouveau houses. Even if many urgently need to be renovated, this is what gives the city its flair. It just doesn’t look as big as it is. And if you get hold of one of the great old building apartments in the center, you’ll be happy to come home every day.
You don’t have to starve, Riga is comparable in price to Germany. Some items are more expensive here than at home, but this is due to the fact that a lot is imported. However, there is always one thing or another that is missing. I’ve been looking for applesauce with pieces for half a year!
Student life (i.e. partying) is guaranteed not to be neglected: there are plenty of opportunities in and around the old town and there is something going on somewhere every day.
- get it in advance and bring it with you: 2 white lab coats, anatomy atlas (Sobotta eventually turns out to be the go-to), letter from the health insurance company in English, warm clothing (it gets VERY cold in winter, -20° is easily possible), interest and fun
- you get an e-ticket for local public transport from the university, there is a 50% discount programmed in, you can top up this card at the machine or any kiosk
- subscribe to all possible RSU, medicine and Riga groups on Facebook and be active there!
- Looking for contact with higher semesters, they are always happy to help!
- don’t be afraid, there is civilization here! Including internet, electricity and running water;-) You don’t end up at the end of the world
- once you are here and start studying: learn from the beginning, make it easier afterwards
- Holidays are short and rare. The only semester breaks are in the summer, there are no German conditions here
- If you have any questions, definitely ask! The best contacts are: MicroEdu, the International Office of the RSU and otherwise simply write to students via Facebook. We do not bite!;-)
Personally, I really enjoy studying and I’m looking forward to the rest!
I would highly recommend this university to anyone considering studying medicine abroad in English!