How foreign students spend holidays in Latvia

Take note – story published 3 years ago

Many foreign students have to spend holiday time in Latvia this year, because the road to families to their home countries is blocked. Latvian Radio spoke to some of them December 29.

Evan is from Sri Lanka and has been studying for two years at Riga Technical University (RTU) Machinery, Transport and Aeronautics Faculty.

"When I arrived in Latvia, it was not a cultural shock for me, but there were things to get used to. But a few months later, I learned the Latvian way of life. I enjoyed every moment until the virus appeared and flipped everything upside down. Now I wake up every day and am stuck with the computer," Evan said.

Although Evan is a Buddhist, he and his family also celebrate Christmas every year, this time the meeting with his parents is only online.

"My family loves winter and snow very much. Usually they came here to visit me for Christmas. I went to Sri Lanka to welcome the New Year. But flights are hardly taking place this year, and we can't really get to each other. All my friends here in Riga are students from nearby countries, Sweden or Germany, and they left before the holidays.

So I'm going to have this holiday alone. But the whole world is facing it now, and many people cannot spend this time with family. Of course, I miss the Christmas market in Doma Square, but I hope to see it again next year," the student said.

Engineering student Gokul from India said: “Yes, it is also a pleasure not to have to wear five layers of clothing to class, but at the same time I lack communication with people.” This is his last semester in Latvia and has not met his parents for more than a year. He admits it is an emotional burden, along with studies in foreign land, and in times of crisis.

"I cannot get home in this situation, both because flight opportunities are limited and because I should be in quarantine in both countries after travelling. And this is not the best time for it, because the final work has to be submitted. Although I am not a Christian myself, India is a country with very many religions, and we celebrate all holidays in the family.

So it's hard for me not to be with my own right now, because this is a family holiday.

However, I have been here in other years, and Latvia is very beautiful during Christmas, but this year too, it will not really be enjoyed. I think I'll call Mum and Grandma on holiday, and we'll cook a holiday meal at the same time," the student said.

Foreign students in Latvia say that all information about restrictions is available to them, also universities provide support, but in health care students have encountered problems with the English language barrier.

"All information about the virus is very quickly available, but if medical treatment is needed in emergency cases, I think there is a language barrier here. I was put in hospital a couple of months ago, but not in connection with COVID-19. Before that, I needed an ambulance. I called, but they were quite rude and dismissive, even though I was in great pain and barely speaking.

But they had the impression that if I didn't speak Latvian, I couldn't get help so quickly. We had to wait until they get someone who can speak English.

I do not blame them either, because we are really students from other countries and do not speak the official language, but this language barrier is a huge problem in such situations," Evan shared his experience.

Gokul also said he had had problems doing a COVID-19 test because of language barrier.

"It's a little complicated. People under the age of 30 speak English, while for others the language barrier is great. I'm lucky to have a flatmate, but not all foreign students have it."


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