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Mission - being a doctor
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Interviews

Continuing with initiatives that have already been launched and to introduce something new! As part of our themed series of interviews “Doctor – it is a mission” we asked the new president of the International Students’ Association (ISA) Robert Ekman to share his plans and intentions for his time in office. The cultural diversity of the RSU student community is a unique platform for a special academic environment where integration and cooperation should be placed in the forefront.

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Photo from private archive

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Robert, I am 25 years old, I come from Sweden and I am a 7th semester medicine student at RSU. I would describe myself as a calm but at the same time adventurous person and as someone not afraid of facing unusual situations as my recent exchange to Iceland or running for ISA presidency. I enjoy a broad range of activities in my spare time, including active leisure, strategy games, hiking or Space Medicine literature. Before coming to Latvia, for some two years I worked in a wide variety of jobs to get as much work experience as possible. I have tested myself in the capacity of a teacher at a kindergarten, an office clerk at an international company, a care assistant for people with mental and physical disabilities, a prison guard, and even a chimney sweeper. The most recent experience was the position of a nurse assistant at a psychiatric ward. One of the reasons bringing joy in this job were the challenges brought by it and the opportunity to connect with people and help them through a rough period.

Why did you choose to study at RSU?

Once I realised that there is almost no chance of getting a study place in Sweden, I started looking for study options abroad. Like most Swedes, first I explored medical schools in Poland, Latvia and Italy. The choice in favour of Riga was partly associated with the good memories I had from attending the hockey championship and the recommendations of an acquaintance who strongly insisted upon choosing RSU. To explore the possibilities offered by RSU I decided to attend the open-days. Although this was in November, when Riga’s weather is not the most welcoming, I gained the impression that Latvia would be a good place to live for the next six years.  

So far, what has your experience been at RSU?

It has been overwhelmingly positive and I absolutely love to have finally reached the clinical semesters. There are certain things that still could be improved, but a fundamental aspect lies in the openness of RSU to students’ feedback and willingness to improve. 

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Photo from private archive

Why did you choose to run for ISA presidency?

My interest in ISA was initially stirred by the events they were organising and later on I got involved as an activist. Afterwards I became friends with members of the previous ISA board as well as with some representatives of the Student Union. I loved their work and have many ideas which I would be willing to put into practice. The position of the president looked most promising to me, as it offers a wide perspective for work, providing also the chance to be part of RSU policy-making and implementation.

What will be ISA’s top three priorities during your presidency? How will you accomplish them? Why are they important?

Continuation - to continue on the path of success taken by the previous board is a high priority, as they have launched many good projects and have established good relationships with students and RSU. We are looking forward to continue working hand in hand with some of the previous board members, particularly at the beginning of our term of office. Furthermore, we aim to increase ISA’s visibility within the international community, raise students’ awareness of the range of activities organised by ISA and create more options for them to get involved in assisting or hosting our events.  

Integration. Although it may be incorporated into the previous priority, it is an issue I would like to single out. From my experience, in my first two study years there was practically no connection with the local students, until I joined a mixed group. We would like to have this opportunity sooner, by organising events together with the Latvian students, e.g. Christmas Ball.

Extra-curricular activities are our third priority. In our home countries, most of us have experienced the richness of extra-curricular activities offered by universities, such as sports and interest groups. Many of them are offered also by RSU, however only or mostly in Latvian. We are looking forward to collaborating with the Student Union and to open up these options to international students as well.

Describe the international student community at RSU. What is important to them? How does ISA help meet the goals of RSU’s international student community?

RSU has a very close and friendly international community, where people feel like they are in the same boat, hence they work together to make the most of it and are mostly happy and open to mingle between nationalities.

In my opinion, this friendly and welcoming atmosphere of the community matters the most. Both studying and living in a foreign country can be tough at times, so what we don’t need is to be alienated and stressed because of the fierce competition among students.

ISA helps create this friendly environment through social activities e.g. World Wide, Teddy Bear Hospital, or Christmas Ball and academic events, such as workshops where senior students provide assistance and teach those in the first semesters.

We certainly want to delve further into this resource of cultural diversity, as we believe there is still much to gain!

What would you wish the new ISA board in 2018?

A very Happy New Year!