Student Snapshot: Hannah Katharina Schöberl
Hannah Katharina Schöberl is a 6th-year medical student at Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) and was recently elected President of the International Student Association (ISA) taking up her new position on 1 January 2020. She has been with ISA since the beginning of 2019 when she was elected Head of Academic Affairs. Prior to her involvement with ISA, Hannah was on the board of the German Student Association (Deutsche Studenten im Ausland, DSiA).
Everyone puts on something in the morning, and I think it’s important to think about what it is that we wear and how our consumption maybe affects other people.
Where are you from?
From Bad Salzig in Germany. It’s on the Rhein River and I can see old castles and vineyards from my window!
How did you choose to come to Rīga Stradiņš University?
I decided to quit my job as a registered nurse on an ICU in Germany and looked into application dates for medical universities abroad. Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) had a February intake, so it was the first university that I applied to, and they accepted me!
What does DSiA do?
We do a clothing donation every semester. Robert’s Books allow us to use their space. It’s really amazing how much the students donate! Nowadays it’s not only students, but also families who bring baby clothing, for example. We then bring the donations to the Rīga Stradiņš Emergency Room.
We also work with the Latvian Samaritan Association and Māras Centrs before they closed. We also do a toy drive together with the RSU Asian Society and Agape. This is something that I really, really like, that we didn’t just come here to study, but also get involved with the society.
We also organise screenings of the German TV series Tatort every month. I think it’s our only event that is just in German. The rest are in English. DSiA board meetings are open to everyone. We are very active. We did a project together with Yachad, the Jewish society, where we talked about the holocaust and to share our experience with how students learn about it nowadays. How is it taught in Germany, and how do Israeli students talk about this topic? We went to the Žanis Lipke Memorial Museum on Ķīpsala, and watched The Mover (dir: Dāvis Sīmanis) together.
Can you talk about your involvement with Fashion Revolution?
Fashion Revolution is a worldwide organisation. It was created after the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, which was this fashion industry factory where over a thousand people died. Fashion Revolution is trying to create awareness about the industry. They analyse brands, how sustainable are they and how transparent their production chain is. They try to influence and convince companies that they should focus on fair working conditions and that workers’ rights matter.
I haven’t bought any fast fashion for three years now. I’d rather go and find second hand alternatives, or support small local designers, or companies who are fair and transparent in their production. And that’s how I got to know about this organisation. I went to a clothing swap at Kaņepes Kultūras Centrs and spoke to several women there and told them about this worldwide movement. I met Dace and decided to bring Fashion Revolution to Latvia.
We contacted fair companies and organised a panel discussion. She introduced what Fashion Revolution is about, and I gave a kind of Ted Talk about the toxins in outdoor clothing and how it affects not just the workers’ health, but also our health as consumers. I also spoke about the toxins that are used when we buy normal cotton, which is sprayed with pesticides, and the health effects this has.
We also had several workshops where people could bring clothing and alter it. We provided several sewing machines that we had borrowed and an embroidery section. Otrā Elpa were really nice and donated buttons and old fabrics that they hadn’t sold and threads that people could use. We also had someone come and show people how to knit. She’s actually a fashion design student in London now! At the end of the day we watched a documentary called River Blue (dir: David McIlvride, Roger Williams) about how the water system is affected by all the toxins released from the factories making our clothes.
What are some of your favourite shops or brands in Latvia?
I like to go to Humana and Otrā elpa, and then I really like Malvīne Mennika. She’s a Latvian designer. I got to meet her personally and think she’s a very interesting person. Besides fashion, she has a feminist podcast, Lāčplēsene. ISA also has a Feminists in Riga group. They don’t just talk about feminism, but about reproductive health and women’s rights. Malvīne actually said she’d come to a meeting and talk about her and her podcast.