My time in Riga
Snow is falling in the streets, the Christmas decorations start lighting up as the sun disappears behind a row of pretty buildings. I am standing at the bus stop in the cold, together with my overweight suitcase full of souvenirs and Christmas presents. I am waiting for the bus that will take me to the airport. In my last hours in this cold but beautiful place I look back on a month full of new experiences. From the day that I landed, my walks around the city, the language course, the articles I wrote, all the amazing people I met along the way, until now. My time in Riga has come to an end. I am going home.
The city of Riga
Let’s start with how I experienced Riga. As I said so many times, it is a really beautiful place. Coming here in winter however might seem like a bit of an odd choice to some. I think I definitely want to come back here in summer, as it’s going to feel like a completely different city, but I am very happy with my decision as the snow, the Christmas lights and decorations really added to the atmosphere. And also I could experience the Christmas market and buy a lot of cool souvenirs there.
At first I felt a bit weird as a Russian student in Riga, as Latvia’s official language is of course Latvian. However, I started to realise pretty quickly how many people actually speak Russian. For example, almost everyone working in stores or restaurants will speak both Latvian and Russian. And also hearing Russian on the street or bus is not a rarity. I almost felt like it was fifty fifty. Naturally, there is not as much Russian culture in Riga as in Saint Petersburg for example (although there is some, like the Russian Theatre in the Old Town). Nevertheless, it is still a great location for learning the Russian language. And on top of that you get an inside on the unique culture of Latvia.
The language course and internship
This brings me to my next point, learning Russian. I really enjoyed going to school every day. The classes were quite fast paced, which was a little hard to keep up with in the beginning. After all I was trying to get back into learning Russian, writing articles and trying to explore the city all at the same time. But after a week or so I started to get into a rhythm and it all became way easier. Fortunately I had an outline of the topics that I would write about before coming to Riga, which made the process of writing articles a little easier. However, I had a high standard towards factuality, so especially articles that involved a lot of history like “The history of Russian folk music” took way longer than I anticipated, as I tried to fact-check as much as possible. But I think that those kind of articles were especially fun, because they posed a bit of a challenge each and every time.
Unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy Riga. I only had one month which passed like it was nothing. There was not a single day where I was bored. I was always studying, writing, meeting people, seeing new places or finding out about new things. Although that might sound a bit much, I didn’t feel any pressure or stress at any time. There was always a positive environment at school and during my internship which I am very thankful for.
One thing I learned above all: Russian is incredibly complex. It takes a lot of time and commitment to master it. But anyways I feel like I have taken a big step towards my goal of becoming fluent. For now I will keep on learning by myself. And if I find the time I’ll certainly come back to Riga to continue my fight with the madness of Russian grammar. Thank you, Liden & Denz, for this amazing opportunity, and thank you for joining me during my time in Riga. Спасибо за чтение, thank you for reading.
Finn Botjes, learning Russian at Liden & Denz Riga