Tom van Manen in Latvia

Field of study in Wageningen: Business and consumer sciences
Study period exchange: 01/02/2019 until 12/06/2019
Country (exchange): Latvia
City (exchange): Riga
University (exchange): University of Latvia
Faculty (exchange): Business and Economics

2. Motivation for exchange

Why did you choose to go on study exchange?

It was always great to hear people talk about their exchange experiences and a lot of friends went on one as well. I wanted to experience new things and get out of the ‘normal life’ for a while, but not taking a gap-year.

What is the reason you chose for this country/university?

My initial thought was that nobody would go there, so it would be easier to get a spot. A friend had been there the year before and was very positive. If he wouldn’t have had a great experience, I think I would not choose this country as a first option. However now I feel like it was a great experience and I am glad I went here.

3. Accessibility to reach destination

Do you have any tips to reach your exchange destination?

If you have a lot of time in advance, you can go by bus, but this takes a lot of time. I took the plane, which was only a 2h flight. It is recommended to take part in the buddy programme. I did not speak a word Russian, let alone Latvian! So it was very nice that my buddy picked me up and took me to my dormitory. He helped us out with getting our transport cards (sort of OV chipkaart), which only costs 16€ a month, but you can use any way of transportation in the whole city. After receiving this card, the city is yours to discover!

4. University and studying

Could you provide some general information about the followed courses?

How is the study formalized?

The study is far more interactive because the groups are small. This way you will be asked to take part in the discussions, which can get you some extra grades if you actively take part. You have to do a lot of presentations, which is sometimes a bit frustrating, but it is great for increasing your presentation skills and your English. The courses will be spread over the whole semester. You will have one or two courses on one day. This is a bit confusing and weird, but actually it is nice too.

What is the culture of the university?

There are not that much local students in the international classes. The teachers are very approachable. You will get a reply email the same day, or just go up to them in or after class. The difference with the WUR would be that you would have more interaction with other students. But this is also due to the working groups on projects. You don’t have to work together on projects a lot, so you will stick to your friends more. The lecturers are also very flexible. They know you are Erasmus students and you obviously want to travel. So if you would miss something due to a trip you have planned that week, you can always do it later or make a substitute assignment.

What does the university offer the student additionally?

The university has a lot of sports to offer, as well as language classes. There is a cafeteria, but this is in the main building. I did not get there a lot.

5. Housing-travelling-living

What are the possibilities for housing?

There are two dormitories which you can rent a room in. This can be a shared room or a single room. There are also a lot of apartments that you can rent with people. I don’t know how much these cost, but it is way more than my €100 for a shared room in one of the dormitories.

What is the culture of the country like?

The people are VERY introvert. The simple rule of letting people out first from the bus and then step in is a rule they have never heard of. Also if someone wants to pass you, they will not ask but just bump into you. This is very strange and frustrating in the beginning, but you will soon get used to it and do it yourself too. Local cuisine is not very special, but it has some nice things. It is a cuisine with a lot of vegetables. It is a very inefficient country compared to the Netherlands, however the public transport in the city is truly amazing. The people are not that friendly, due to being introvert. Cashiers or store owners will almost never say hi and look more annoyed than happy that you are there. Despite this all, you will get used to it very fast and blend in.

Could you give a general price indication of the place of residence compared to living in Wageningen?

My room costs €100 a month. It is a shared room so I have one roommate. You can also choose a single room, this would be €180 a month. In Wageningen you can easily pay triple that.

Could you give some information about public transport infrastructure?

Public transport in the city is amazing. There are like millions of busses driving around the city, with intervals of about 5 minutes during weekdays and 10-15 minutes in the weekends, except in the morning and afternoon. A public transport card will cost you €5 single costs and after that €16 monthly for all transport types. This includes busses, trolleybuses, trams.

For taxis there are two apps, Yandex and Bolt (Taxify). I personally used Bolt, which works perfectly fine. A ride from the suburbs to the airport only costs €8. Most rides costs around €2,50 or €3. So sharing a taxi home with your friends will costs you not more than a Euro.

We have 9292, but in Riga you should use Trafi. This app will show you how and which busses you should take. If you have to go to a new location or the screen in the bus does not work, the app shows you in real time where you are on your way. This way you will have to really not pay attention on missing your stop.

6. Free time

What are must-sees in the area? 

There are a lot of cities and national parks in Latvia. The beach, Jurmala, is a destination many Erasmus and Latvians go to. Jurmala has A LOT of stops, so we always went to Majori. Train tickets cost around €1.80 to Jurmala round trip. For other cities this can go up to €5. A nice national park is Kemeri National Park. Cities to visit are Sigulda, Cesis, Ogre and Salaspils for the concentration camp. You can search for train timetables online and just go to central station and buy a train ticket.

What does not appear in the travel guide, but is worth a visit?

You should just explore the city. Go to some outskirts. The city is more than only the city center.

Do you have general tips and tricks about leisure time?

Ask a Latvian what is his favourite place to have lunch and they will tell you Lido. Lido is everywhere in the city and has a lot of good food. Costa Coffee and Double Coffee are great coffee places. All the supermarkets (Rimi and Maxima) are opened 7 days a week from 8-22, but some even until midnight. For going out you should try to go to some Erasmus parties. Besides the parties, there is a lot of bars you can go to. Funny Fox is a sports and Karaoke bar, Rock café has karaoke too, but is a massive place that has a lot to offer. Shot café will get you drunk if you like shots, but has great sofas to sit inside. If you like clubbing more, you should go to Puce, ALA bar or Kalku Varti!

7. Challenges & best moment abroad

What was a challenge you have experienced?

It can be a bit sad sometimes that you are gone. Things that happen at home you miss. And friends are not that keen on coming all the way to Latvia to visit hahaha. But overall it is not too hard. Just don’t go if you get homesick fast.

What was your best memory abroad?

The possibility to meet new people, study abroad and make a lot of trips to for example Norway and Lapland. There are a lot of trips organised, but you can also just plan trips yourself.

8. Contact details

Would you like to ask Tom more questions about his exchange?
Send him a mail: