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Student Snapshot

Hanna Hjelt is a first year medical student from Stockholm Sweden. She arrived in Riga in the first week of September to start her studies at Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU).

How did you hear about RSU, and why did you choose to study here?

I was unable to start my studies in Sweden, and therefore I started looking for other opportunities. A family friend of mine graduated from RSU this summer, so one thing led to another and I applied! 

What made you want to study medicine?

I have wanted to since I was a child. My father worked in a paediatric ward, and so I used to come with him for morning rounds, look at all the newborn babies and play around with everything that I could get my hands on. I really liked to look through his anatomy books.


When I was younger, I used to ask for doctor bags or various equipment and bandages for my birthday.

Over the years I realised that it wasn't just the equipment that I liked, but I found that I really like supporting people, and helping those in need.

Tell me about your experience prior to applying to RSU.

I've done practical medical work at a day hospital, a specialised ward for stem cell transplantation at Karolinska University Hospital as well as at a surgical unit in Pretoria, South Africa. I find surgery very interesting and amusing (if you can say that). However, once I get to experience all these different fields within medicine during my studies, I might find something else I like even more.

What were your concerns for starting to study in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic?

My biggest concerns where about the uncertainty of how and when classes would start, and whether or not I would even be able to enter Riga. It also became very stressful when I had to leave as I had already given up my apartment in Stockholm, but by the time I was supposed to leave for Riga, all the flights and ferries from Stockholm to Riga were cancelled. Apart from that, I’ve just been excited to start my studies.

The pandemic has inspired me to study to become a doctor. 

Had you been to Riga or Latvia before?

No never.

What are your first impressions of Latvia and RSU?

I arrived very late at night, and ended up eating a late dinner at McDonalds by the Central Station, so I was unfortunately not able to get a good understanding of Riga! But as the days have gone on, I find Riga to be a very beautiful city with many lovely parks and streets. I find the Swedish groceries at Rimi very nice. I’ve also gotten to experience Latvia’s famous black balsam, which, to be honest, wasn’t very tasty.


How has it been self-isolating in a new country?

It’s been alright. Since I’m a medical student we don’t really have much freedom anyways. Food delivery has become my best friend during these past weeks of isolation.

I’ve been out of self-isolation for about a week now. The weather has been amazing, so I’ve been out a lot exploring the city, getting used to the trams and busses. I also visited the Central Market and took some clothes to a tailor and went to a hairdresser. I also got to see my apartment (which unfortunately is still under reconstruction). Once I get some free time, I will defiantly make sure to visit Jurmala.

And what about studying online and in isolation?

I’m used to studying and working remotely, so I don’t really have a problem with that. It is beginning to become a bit lonely, however – moving to a new city where the only interaction you have is with your classmates through a zoom call. You do miss out on some of the usual student activities.  

Did you know anyone here?

No. I have started meeting with my fellow students, both from my group and other study groups. I'm always keen to meet new people and go to events! My studies have prevented me from being too active yet, however.

What are your feelings about your future studies?

I am very optimistic about the future!