Riga: Travel Base of Operations

Riga: Travel Base of Operations
25 July 2016

This past weekend I actually flew to Kiev, Ukraine to visit a friend who invited me over for the weekend. And it was AWESOME! So cool. Having lived in Russia before, it was definitely a blast from the past with a twist of the unknown and a spin on the Ukrainian language wheel (which surprisingly isn’t that hard to read with an OK understanding of Russian and a creative mind). There was tons of stuff to see (old Soviet relics, awesome hills to look out over the whole city, and the Родина Мать, which is basically the Statue of Liberty brandishing the symbols of the USSR) and it was a great way to get out and enjoy another part of the beautiful expanse known as Eastern Europe.

It’s experiences though like this that make me appreciate living in Riga that much more.

With its central placement in the area, Riga is one of the best Liden and Denz locations for students who want to learn Russian but also travel around, period. Whether it’s by bus, train, or plane, most major cities like Tallinn, Vilnius, Warsaw, Kiev, Helsinki, Oslo, St. Petersburg and Pskov are only a short ride or flight away. And with the exception of St. Petersburg and Pskov, you can also travel to all these cities without a visa. Weekend trips are most often the kind of trips you can predict, and with a little planning, you can stay in one place for at least 1 full day and two half days. Hostels and cheap hotels make staying somewhere super easy, and cheap, small airlines make flying to more further away locations more cost-friendly.

One of the best parts of travelling though is the experience you get, in the culture, with the language, on your own. One of the hardest but also rewarding parts of my trip to Ukraine was having to communicate almost exclusively in Russian, relying mainly on myself. And let me tell you, when my friend invited his 7 friends over and I had to keep up with a group conversation where everyone is trying to get attention by talking loud and fast, it’s like drinking from a fire hose: it’s hard and kind of punishing, but you learn a TON in a day. Travelling around just gives you the experience of applying what you’ve learned into real situations, in a great, foreign situation.

So if you like travelling and studying Russian, definitely consider Riga as your base of operations. It’ll give you the best travel experience possible.

Mark Kennedy, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Riga and travelling around Europe.

Posted by Mark Kennedy

Всем Привет! My name is Mark Kennedy, and I’m currently studying Russian at the Liden and Denz Language Center in Riga, Latvia! To say I’m excited to be here is a severe understatement. Currently I'm going into my fourth year at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, where I'm enrolled as a dual-degree candidate, earning two degrees in Russian Language and Literature, and French Horn Performance. I started my study of Russian during a two-year mission for my church in St. Petersburg, Russia. Probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done! My language learning started off as kind of a trial by fire: with only 12 weeks of training beforehand, I was thrown into Russia and expected (to attempt, at least) to hold full on conversations with people. In the beginning it wasn’t pretty, but the sink or swim mentality of it all forced me to work hard from the start, and motivated me to really overcome any issues I had quickly. Combined with a personally guided plan of language study and some study materials, I came to love the language and the Russian people a TON! Two years later and I’m still studying it… Outside of Russian language, my French Horn degree keeps me busy. Favorite composer is probably Richard Strauss, and my favorite symphonic work is The Rite of Spring Suite by Stravinsky. (Debussy Piano pieces are my favorite non-symphonic works). I’m also into basically anything arts related: singing, dancing, listening to Maroon 5, drawing Sharpie art, going to art exhibits, going to orchestra concerts, etc. In terms of sports, I was a collegiate rower for the University of Michigan in 2011-2012, when we won the National Champions Team Trophy, and I play Ultimate Frisbee. I’m excited for this opportunity to write for Liden & Denz, and to share my enthusiasm and excitement about Riga and the Russian language!

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