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Three months provided plenty of time for Italian nurse Lisa Tessari to gain valuable experience at the Children’s Clinical University Hospital and the Pauls Stradiņš Clinical University Hospital, migrating to a new ward each week, following the daily work of various intensive care, emergency medicine, surgery and therapy units every day. Although Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) welcomes incoming Erasmus+ students from Italian universities every year, Lisa is the first exchange student in Nursing. Her intensive experience exchange that finished before the summer holidays has been a true success, leading to the head of the programme deciding to expand its international outreach. 

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The exchange in Riga is the final stage of Lisa’s studies that have lasted three and a half years, to be followed by final exams at the University of Verona before she will be awarded a degree in nursing. When speaking about her future profession, Lisa does not think twice before naming the most important quality of a medical nurse – empathy – noting that it is a quality inherent in her, “I tend to have this motherly attitude towards everyone, wherever I may be, always looking after and taking care of others.”  During the last three months, she had the chance to see empathy in action, despite the language barrier. Sometimes it is not only about language differences– Lisa recalls her recent experience with a Russian-speaking blind patient. Despite all obstacles, they succeeded in finding a common language which has given her an immense sense of accomplishment. 

The success of the three-month exchange depended largely on the meeting with the Head of the study programme Nursing Eva Cela, who asked her which competences and skills she would like to improve. “As I gave a whole long list, Eva put together a very intensive programme which threw me into a new reality every week.” The intensity and the fact that Lisa was the first exchange student in nursing led to some stressful moments,” the head of the programme reveals.  “The daily routine at a university hospital is very intense, at times aggressive. Due to the language barrier, Lisa’s communication with many patients was restricted. We had to overcome many emotional moments,” Eva Cela points out and at the same time thanks both clinical university hospitals for accepting Lisa. She also praises the Erasmus+ programme which gives the prospective medical practitioners the possibility to learn about themselves, expand their horizons and gain valuable contacts –¬ possibly for a lifetime, and the country visited on exchange may even become their second home.  

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RSU "Erasmus+" student Lisa Tessari with head of the RSU study programme "Nursing"  Eva Cela. Photo from private archive.

Lisa is very satisfied with Latvia as her Erasmus+ destination.  “I rented a flat in the centre of Riga with three other medical students who showed me the city. I have always been captivated by different cultures and Latvia did not disappoint me. The weather this spring was excellent,” she laughs, remembering that her Italian friends were green with envy seeing her sun bathing at the seaside in April. “To see the world – that is what I am thirsty for. I come from a very small village which seems fine in childhood when you are safe and know everyone. However, at some point you want to know what is beyond the village. Therefore at the age of 18 I went to Edinburgh for half a year, where I worked in a restaurant and a charity shop.” 

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Future medical nurses at the University of Verona. Lisa Tessari – second from right. Photo from private archive.

Travelling and the placement in Riga have led me to understand that pain is the same everywhere, regardless of where you are. The support and endurance required within the nurse’s profession is universal, irrespective of national borders. “Nursing is a profession that makes you appreciate life and everything you possess daily,” Lisa ends the conversation on a serious note. 

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Lisa Tessari
Erasmus+ exchange student from the University of Verona


The first Erasmus exchange student from Italy arrived at RSU in 2007 and since then RSU has admitted 23 medical and social sciences students from universities in Italy. Lisa was the first exchange student in the study programme Nursing.