New Chair of the Student Union Anna Jete Gauja: ‘Let My Actions Speak Louder Than My Words!’
Anna Jete Gauja is a third-year student from the Medicine study programme at the Faculty of Medicine. She assumed her duties as Chair of the Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) Student Union (SU) on 1 January 2020 and has been a part of the SU team for two years already. In the summer following her first year of studies she became an activist for the union by taking part in organising the ZGI seminar for first year students. After this experience she became more involved and in the spring semester during her second year, she was elected as a Head of Social Matters.
‘When I started studying, I was one of those students who didn’t know what the Student Union was or what it did. I had the impression that the union only organised different social events and entertainment. When I became involved myself and started doing something, I realised that there were a lot of different directions and levels on which the union operates. Events are not the only thing they do, but they also get involved in various academic, research and infrastructure matters too. The wide range of topics encouraged me to do even more,’ Anna Jete Gauja comments on why she got involved with SU.
Anna Jete Gauja in 2020. Photo from the RSU SU archive.
A new year has just begun. What do you expect from 2020?
I expect that this year will show me how much I can achieve and how much I can motivate myself and keep going. Last year, when I was Head of Social Matters, the chair was often the person that encouraged me and motivated me when I needed it, telling me that I can do it. This year I expect that I’ll be my own motivator and that I’ll be able to move on and act without an external push.
Why do you think the university needs the Student Union?
It is essential to realise that no one knows what students need better than students themselves. No dean, vice-rector or minister knows better than the students themselves do what really goes on in the lecture halls. SU is made up of students that represent student interests, guide them and implement their ideas.
What is currently worrying RSU students?
Doctoral students want their study process to be modernised, e.g. they want electronic reports instead of written and oral reports to be implemented. There’s a discussion on whether they should have lectures.
Residents are worried about low salaries, something that has recently been discussed widely in Latvian media and which young doctors have fought for. We supported and attended the protests, because that will affect the future of RSU students studying to be doctors or medical practitioners.
The most important thing for undergraduate students is to strive to get European standards in the study process, because when they leave on exchange programmes they see and can compare how studies are organised at other universities.
Anna Jete Gauja at the ZGI event in August 2019. Photo from the RSU SU arhives.
Why did you want to become chair of the Student Union?
Last year, when I was the head of social matters, I saw how many ideas and how much energy each board member invests in the union. Even when they knew they wouldn’t be able to enjoy the fruits of their labour, they did it anyway to improve the study process for other students that would come later. I was inspired by their energy and passion and realised that there’s still so much that I can offer.
What is the first thing you want to do as chair?
In my opinion, the first thing that every chairperson has to do as leader is to focus on making the board into a team. The leader has to think about the team being comfortable! I started working on team building, because that’s the basis on which you can build later. Everyone joined this board with big goals and dreams, and I want to help them accomplish these.
Why did you decide to study medicine?
When I was in secondary school, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to study for a long time: IT or medicine. Eventually, I chose medicine. I wanted to understand how a human functions physiologically and why we’re built this way with nerve cells, muscles, etc. Also, I’m a person who wants to give back to others, not to sit and write documents, but instantly help others. A doctor is the most typical profession that comes to mind.
What has been the most difficult thing about studying medicine?
I think that the most difficult thing now is to figure out what I’ll do next, i.e. whether I’ll study in the residency programme, which speciality I’ll choose, etc. I have to start thinking about this now if I want to apply for a spot in the residency programme here in Latvia.
Physiology was the most difficult study course, because I wanted to have a logical understanding of the material rather than just learning it by heart.
Do prospective doctors have to memorise a lot and is this a good way to learn?
There are things that you just need to learn by heart and you can’t apply any logic to them. This knowledge doesn’t disappear anywhere, however, it remains somewhere in the memory and proves useful when you’re creating the bigger picture when you’re studying other courses later on. Of course, over time I’ll forget a lot from what I’ve etched in my mind, though when I’ll hear a concept or something I’ve studied, I’ll know that I have to pay attention and find patterns.
How do you manage to combine studying medicine and performing your duties as the chair of SU?
As long as I enjoy it and I see a purpose to what I’m doing everything comes easily. Maybe at times I’m physically tired, but mentally I'm satisfied with what I do and I have joy in life.
What do you expect from your team in the coming year?
I expect that after this year they’ll have the feeling that they’ve achieved something worthy, achieved their dreams and goals, and done something good. I want them to experience the feeling of having accomplished a lot and being ready to hand over any incomplete tasks to their successors who want to take part in the union with the same enthusiasm.
After the SU elections on 20 November 2019. Anna Jete Gauja (first from the left) with her new team. Photo from the RSU SU archives.
This year is the 70th anniversary of RSU. What do you wish for your university?
To continue growing and aiming even higher by offering only the most modern higher education of the best quality! To work according to set goals, current trends, and the students’ interests!
Ten quick questions for Anna Jete Gauja
1. Which film would you like to see again?
Limuzīns Jāņu nakts krāsā (A Limousine the Colour of Midsummer’s Eve, dir: Jānis Streičš, 1981)
2. What's your addiction?
I am a workaholic.
3. If you were offered to do a parachute jump, would you do it?
At first, I'd be very scared, but in the end I'd do it.
4. What would you like to learn?
I’d like to learn a new language, a Scandinavian language.
5. What are you afraid of?
I’m afraid to do a lot, but feel no satisfaction in the end.
6. What do you do best?
I’m good at thinking and acting immediately when it’s necessary.
7. What do you dislike?
When it’s too peaceful and you think it’s smooth sailing, but you know that it’s not going to be that smooth.
8. What things in life are worth worrying about?
About whether you’re doing what you really enjoy.
9. What would be the worst betrayal to you?
10. What should a person do to live well?
To do what you enjoy!
The full board of the 2020 RSU Student Union:
- Head of Academic Affairs Aija Tumova
- Deputy Head, Academic Affairs Sintija Sovane
- Head of Social Matters Anna Kricka
- Research Director Iveta Baiba Dzīvīte
- Deputy Head of Research Nauris Lukjanovičs
- Head of Communications Līva Zvirgzdiņa
- Deputy Head of Communications Antra Zuce
- Head of Internal Cooperation &Human Resources Nikola Krista Ivanova
- Deputy Head of Internal Cooperation & Human Resources Elizabete Paula Valguma
- Head of Foreign Affairs Paula Feldmane
- Head of Culture and Sports Sofija Korņilova