University: Riga Stradins University
Field of study: human medicine
Study type: Other courses
Latvia is a country many people overlook. “What, you’re going to Lapland now?!” or “Riga – where is that again?” were the most common sentences I heard before I moved there. I didn’t do much research either before applying or even after receiving my acceptance. I let Riga come my way and now, if you don’t want to do the same, I would like to inform you a little bit about it. Check liuxers.com to see how to open a bank account in Italy.
First some general information: As the capital of Latvia, Riga is located on the Baltic coast in northern Europe, is home to 660,000 inhabitants and boasts a beautiful old town.
The first association (“It’s always cold in Riga”) was not confirmed when I came here in August 2011. Riga is a summer city, with a number of cute cafes, well-kept parks and the sea in the immediate vicinity.
Like most of my fellow students, I moved into a room in the student hotel (Hotel NB) for the time being. The NB has proven to be very convenient – 5 minute walk to the uni, good train links into town and the room is cleaned every day. It is not suitable for long-term use, as there is no real kitchen. After a month at the NB, I moved in with two German girls from my semester. The search for an apartment took time and a few unsuccessful apartment visits, but it was worth it. There are many offers on the Internet and also from the university – but it is best to contact one or more brokers and have them make offers. There you should pay attention Comparing prices and asking about the heating costs – because they can get very high in winter. I would recommend taking your time looking for an apartment and not panicking about looking for roommates or apartments in the first few weeks – especially if you wait longer, rents will drop due to lower demand.
The university starts with an introductory week, which gives the students time to settle in (and to discover Riga’s party life). During the first week it is advisable to take care of some organizational matters – for example opening a Latvian bank account and buying a mobile phone card. Otherwise you should take the time to explore the city. This is supported by the “buddies” that are assigned to you by the university. Most of the buddies are Latvian and many of them are really nice and helpful. Unfortunately I was unlucky – my buddy never contacted me. However, it was not a problem to find your way around the city or to get help in any other way.
Already in the introductory week you will be informed of the timetable for the coming semester.
This includes the following subjects:
- Medical Chemistry
- Human Anatomy
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology
- Mathematics and Statistics (aka Physics)
- Medical Ethics/Law
- Intercultural Relations
- first aid
The semester takes part in the lectures together, while the practical “classes” are taught in small groups (8-11 people). You spend most of your time with your own small group, which is why it is advisable to look for allies or learning partners in them. Speaking of learning: unfortunately, this is also inevitable and should ideally be carried out consistently, because knowledge is tested during the semester in colloquia and tests. If you can’t shine twice in the colloquia, you have to repeat the subject in the lower semester. But don’t worry – that doesn’t happen that quickly and it can be prevented by diligent study.
There is always time for hobbies and social contacts, and Riga has a lot to offer there too: a wide variety of restaurants for every taste, shopping opportunities in large centers, fitness studios and university sports, as well as numerous bars and clubs for evening activities.
One should not worry too much about the language barrier with the Latvian people – Latvians are very understanding. Since almost a third of the population still speaks Russian 20 years after independence, many people in the country speak both Russian and Latvian. You can also communicate in English and sometimes even German. Nevertheless, it is of course advisable to master the Latvian language, which is made easier by lessons at the university.
For my part, I am glad that I took the step to go to Riga. I was able to fulfill my dream of studying medicine without having to wait years. I’ve met wonderful people who make my life 1500 km from home really nice and I live in an exciting, international city.