During the autumn semester of 2020/21, I spent a few months in Riga, Latvia. I was so happy when I found out I could spend a semester abroad despite COVID and I never regretted going!
Most of my semester at the Latvijas Universitāte (LU) was online, although it did start offline. Teachers were generally passionate about their subjects and they helped out whenever needed. The workload was okay, although the teaching practice was quite time-consuming. There was not a huge choice in relevant classes, but it was enough to find some interesting ones. The staff at the international office was nice and helpful and they generally answered emails quite quickly. The building of the Faculty of Education, Psychology and Arts is currently located far from the center, which was a bit annoying, but the faculty is supposed to move soon. Some of the other students mentioned that they had problems with some of their courses not being held in English, so it’s probably a good idea to contact the teacher in advance to make sure they teach in English, although I didn’t personally have any difficulties with that.
The university offered a teaching practice course that I got 12 ECTS for and that I would recommend for all future teachers! I spent my teaching practice at the “Deutsche Schule Riga” where I observed various classes and where I taught German as a foreign language to a group of beginners (6-8 years old). I was able to do a lot of autonomous work at the school, but the teachers there also supported me when needed. It was a very different experience to teaching practice in Austrian schools and the multicultural atmosphere at the school was very inspiring. In addition to that, I learned a lot about teaching German as a foreign language and I got the chance to be creative and to try out new ideas.
During my semester in Riga, I lived at a student dormitory that was provided by the LU and in which I had a single room. It was located in the Moscow quarter, 10 minutes per bus from the city center. I thought it was pretty cheap until I found out that other students living in flats in the center paid less for more, so I would definitely recommend finding a flat!
Riga is a beautiful city with lots of history. Whether you want to take a walk in the wonderful old town or along the river, visit museums or go out to discover clubs and bars, you will definitely find enough interesting places there. In addition to beautiful buildings, Riga also has lots of parks, a big market and generally a wonderful atmosphere.
From Riga, you also have the possibility to travel around Latvia (going by train or renting a shared car is quite cheap), to go to the sea and also to neighbouring countries, which I sadly didn’t get to do.
The weather in Riga tends to be windy and rainy, especially in autumn. In winter it can get quite cold, although the past few winters it hasn’t gotten as cold anymore. In late summer there was a lot of sun though and the sunny autumn days were beautiful due to the colorful leaves in all of Latvia’s woods.
In terms of money, Riga is a bit cheaper than Austria, especially the accommodation. Public transports are very cheap for students who get their transport card (e-talons) at one of the offices at the beginning of the semester. Trains are also very cheap. To get around the city at a late hour, you can just order a taxi through the Bolt app, which is fast and quite cheap, depending on the time of day.
Latvians are not very open to foreigners and not overly friendly, but to me, they were always helpful and once you get to know them, they can be very nice and interesting people!
All in all, I am very happy that I got to spend such a wonderful semester in Latvia. I fell in love with the city and I met a lot of awesome people there, especially through ESN Riga (https://www.facebook.com/ESN.Riga), the university and at the dormitory. Because of COVID, I sadly didn’t get to do everything that I wanted to, but I made the best out of it and it was one of the best times of my life! I didn’t just make a lot of experiences there, but I also made many friends and learned a lot about myself. I would recommend going to Latvia to anyone who is in for an adventure, who wants to meet a lot of cool people and who wants to improve themselves and make new experiences!
Author: Alina Weirer.