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Latvia
LaMSA Latvia
Flag latvia.jpg Logo.jpg
Location Location latvia.jpg
Participating cities (LC's) Riga
Languages Latvian
Currency (how much is a Bigmac?) Euro (EUR),Bigmac=2,40 Eur
Time zone GMT +2
Number of Doctors and beds per 1000 people 10
Member of IFMSA since... 2002
Number of incoming students per year 50
Who are our NEO's Krista Svilāne
Our official website [1]
Come for exchange!
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Welcome Note

There is a tale about a small boy named Spriditis. He set out on a journey to look for happiness. After a long time spending in foreign lands, after passing through a lot of exciting, but dangerous adventures he finds out, that the best place all around the world is at home. And his home is in Latvia. Although a small country, Latvia is proud, strong in spirit and able to go forward, whatever it takes. If it would be different, then today Latvia wouldn’t be independent country developed enough in science and medicine to give this knowledge and experience to other. Still keeping its heritage from ancient time, not losing its traditions, Latvia is able to follow to newest innovations in medical techniques and consistently go to better development. Spriditis.jpg

Overview

Latvian: Latvija

Lithuanian: Latvija

Estonian: Lati

German: Lettland

French: Lettonie

Spanish: Letonia

Russian: Латвия

Swedish: Lettland

Chinese: 拉脫維亞

Japanese: ラトビア

Latvia is a small country (the central country of the Baltic States) and is located in North-eastern Europe on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. Latvia has a total area of 64,559 km2. The total length of Latvia's boundary is 1,866 km. It has land boundaries with Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania, also we share maritime boundaries with Estonia, Sweden and Lithuania.

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Latvia consists of four ancient historical districts: Vidzeme, Latgale, Kurzeme and Zemgale. It has a total of 110 municipalities. The largest cities (9) in Latvia are: Rīga, Daugavpils, Liepāja, Jelgava, Jūrmala, Ventspils, Rēzekne, Valmiera and Jēkabpils, which serve as regional centers for 498 rural communities and 65 towns.

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The democratic, parliamentary Republic of Latvia was founded on November 18, 1918. It has been continuously recognised as a sovereign state since 1920 despite occupations and rule by the Soviet Union (1940-1941, 1945-1991) and Nazi Germany (1941-1945). On August 21, 1991 Latvia declared the restoration of its de facto independence, re-established international diplomatic ties, and joined the United Nations Organisation. Latvia joined the WTO in 1998 and in 2004 became a member of the European Union and NATO, it joined the Shengen zone in 2007. It consists of fertile lowland plains and moderate hills, with most of its territory less than 100 metres above sea level. It has an extensive network of rivers, thousands of lakes and hundreds of kilometres of undeveloped seashore lined by pine forests, dunes, and continuous white sand beaches. Longest river within Latvian territory is the Gauja (452 km), but the one to flow through Latvian territory is the Daugava (total 1 005 km, of which 352 km within Latvian territory). The highest point is 311,6 meters high Gaiziņkalns. Largest lake- Lubāns (80,7 km2) and deepest lake- Drīdzis (65,1 m). With over 44 percent of its territory covered by forests, a vast network of free flowing rivers and thousands of lakes, Latvia is one of Europe’s best preserved havens for a wide variety of wildlife. Over 27 thousand species of flora and fauna thrive in natural settings that are still relatively undisturbed by man. Many rare species, such as the black stork and lesser spotted eagle, make their homes in Latvia’s mixed forests, marshes and meadows. There is also an abundance of otters, beavers, lynx and wolves, as well as great concentrations of deer, elk, fox and wild boar. Bird-watching is particularly rewarding in Latvia, especially in the coastal areas and wetlands during annual migration periods.

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Latvians are the indigenous people of Latvia, and the Finno-Ugric Livs (or Livonians) are the only indigenous minority. Nowadays the population of Latvia, which is 2 023 825 inhabitants (2013), consist of ethnic mix, which is a result of massive post-war immigration. Ethnic variety causes also variety of languages in Latvia. Most common foreign languages are Russian, English and German. However the official language is only one and it is Latvian. It is non-Slavic and non-Germanic and is considered one of the oldest Indo-European languages. Similar to Latvian is only Lithuanian language.

Hi - Sveiks!

Good-bye - Uz redzēšanos

Yes - Jā

No - Nē

Thank you - Paldies

Please - Lūdzu

Sorry - Atvainojiet

Latvia’s political, economic and culture centre, also capital city of Latvia is Rīga, where more than one third of Latvia’s population (644 thousand) lives and works. Rīga’s elegant Old Town and distinctive Art Nouveau architecture serve as a stimulating setting for a vibrant modern business and cultural life. Founded in 1201, this former Hanseatic League member is one of the oldest medieval cities in Europe and has been listed by UNESCO as one of the world’s most important cultural and natural sites. As one of the new stars of the dynamic Baltic Sea region, Rīga has hosted a NATO summit, world hockey championship, the Eurovision Song Contest and many other large-scale international events.

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One of the most important representative aspects of country is its symbols. The crimson-white-crimson flag of Latvia is one of the oldest in the world and dates back to a battle near Cēsis in the 13th century. According to one legend, it originated from a white sheet used to carry a mortally wounded Latvian tribal chief from the battlefield. Soaked with his blood on two sides, his soldiers hoisted the warrior’s sheet as a banner as it led them to victory. The National Anthem is ‘Dievs, svētī Latviju!’ or ‘God bless Latvia!’ whose author is Kārlis Baumanis who was the first to use word ‘Latvia’ in a lyric. Latvia’s coat of arms combines the traditional heraldic symbols of Latvian statehood and national identity – three stars, the sun, the sea and oak leaves. Latvia’s historical districts of Kurzeme and Zemgale are represented by a red lion, while Vidzeme and Latgale are depicted by a silver griffin.

Our health care system

The Latvian health care system is based on general tax-financed statutory health care provision, with a purchaser –provider split and a mix of public and private providers. The Ministry of Health is responsible for national health policy and the overall organization and functioning of the health system. The independent National Health Service (NHS) institution implements state health policies and ensures the availability of health care services throughout the country. Different ownership structures characterize healthcare provision in Latvia. Smaller hospitals and some bigger regional hospitals are usually owned by the 119 municipalities, whilst larger tertiary hospitals (university hospitals) and single speciality (monoprofile) hospitals (e.g. psychiatric hospitals) are owned by the state. Most primary care physicians have the legal status of an independent professional, and almost all dental practices and pharmacies are private. Almost all Latvians are registered with a GP, their family doctor, who acts as the main point of entry into the health care system and as the gatekeeper to secondary ambulatory and hospital care. In rural areas (in which about a third of the population lives), a physician assistant (feldsher) or midwife still provides a considerable share of primary care. A patient with a referral from the GP can freely choose any ambulatory or inpatient care provider (institution) that has a contract with the NHS (National Health Service). Some specialists can be accessed directly under certain conditions (eg: access to a paediatrician for children) without a referral from the family doctor. Family doctors are available 20–25 hours a week, five days a week. At other times, the patient can receive care from out-of-hours family doctors, 24-hour hospital admission and emergency wards, urgent care wards in health centres, and emergency care teams (see section 5.5). However, out-of-hours family doctors are usually available only in urban areas. There are several local hospitals which are low intensity “care hospitals”, which provide medical care to patients after discharge from acute care hospitals (e.g Riga 1st hospital). In addition, a new type of healthcare service includes within the health system: home care, meaning medical care provided at home by nurses or physicians’ assistants to chronically ill patients or patients after surgery. Emergency care is a healthcare service for a wide variety of conditions ranging from life-threatening emergencies to acute conditions requiring urgent treatment. The State Dentistry and Face Surgery Centre is responsible for planning and coordination of dental care in Latvia. The centre is a structure of Stradins State Clinical University Hospital acting under the supervision of the Ministry of Health and it maintains records of all dental practitioners in Latvia Latvia has one of the highest rates of out-of-pocket expenditure on health in the European Union (EU)

Our medical education

Full-time studies, Length of Study Programme and ECTS: 12 semesters, 6 years, 360 ECTS. After studies you become Medical Doctor. The aim of the professional programme is to prepare academically educated and professionally qualified doctors, so that they can serve the society of Latvia, the European Union, as well as the world. So that the knowledge, skills and attitude they have acquired during their studies would comply with EU standards and humane traditions, and it would form a firm basis for lifelong learning. It is important to provide the society with a highly qualified and modern medical care.

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Cultural differences

Just imagine for a moment, where else in such a small territory can one find unusual churches and ancient pagan sacred objects, where else is it possible to try out and participate in ancient traditions and witness something completely modern, where else can one enjoy historic medieval buildings and the unique Art Nouveau architecture of the beginning of 20th century which is unique in the world because it can only be created in a progressive and multicultural environment. Why is Latvia’s culture so unique? Because of its favourable geographical location, in the last millennium Latvia has absorbed the traditions and experience of, arguably, almost all European or even World nations, at the same time retaining characteristics which are special and unique only to Latvians. The variety of cultures and their peaceful co-existence are exemplified by the fact that in Latvia one can see churches of different confessions – all of them ornate, for example, Catholic (Rīga St. Albert’s Roman Catholic Church, Aglona Basilica), Lutheran (St. Peter’s Church in Rīga), Orthodox (Rīga Christ’s Birth Orthodox Cathedral) churches, and the prayer houses of Old-Believers (Rīga Grebenščikova Old-Believer Church).

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Music in Latvia

Latvia is a land of music. Nearly one of every two of its residents has studied at a music school, sings in a chorus or plays a musical instrument. This means there is a busy concert and festival schedule in Latvia: from opera productions to early music festivals, to the Song Festival, to jazz concerts, world music performances and events featuring every genre of contemporary music. Before examining the world of professional art music, the phenomenon of the Latvian Nationwide Song and Dance Celebration should be looked at, because this is a grass-roots movement that literally pervades all of Latvian society, engaging huge numbers of people from all walks of life, from the largest cities to the smallest rural villages. Its uniqueness is recognized to be a national treasure by UNESCO, and indeed, foreign tourists are amazed by the phenomenon. The Latvian Nationwide Song and Dance Celebration is an event that is held once every five years, but at the same time, it is a process that is continuous. The last festival took place in July 2013, and it brought more than 40 000 singers, instrumental musicians, and dancers to the capital city, and audiences, both live and via radio and television, spanned the entire nation. Throughout the year there are countless concerts and performances in Latvia, but a surprising aspect in the musical life of the country is the large number of music festivals and the bright star performers that these festivals attract. Latvian composers have been highly successful at home and abroad, receiving numerous prizes and commissions. Among the “old guard”, probably the most famous and most frequently performed Latvian composer is Pēteris Vasks, winner of the 2004 Cannes Classical Award; he has received commissions and performances worldwide, collaborating with the best symphony orchestras, soloists, and ballet companies throughout Europe and the USA. Sacred music in churches is an integral part of the musical life throughout Latvia. It is hard to imagine a church service on Sunday without performances by a choir, soloists, or the organist. While the jazz tradition in Latvia dates back to pre-World War II, it has seen a particular surge in interest during the last few years, owing in part to the recent introduction of jazz education in Latvia’s music schools. Alongside seasoned veteran jazz artists, there is a growing new generation of jazz talents. Internationally renowned jazz musicians not only come to Latvia to perform in concerts and clubs, they also give master classes. The aforementioned festivals (The Saulkrasti Jazz Festival, Rīga’s Rhythms, The Sony Jazz Stage) are important venues for many established stars and emerging young talents. Also we have a high leveled popular music. We highly recommend you to listen some of the Latvian band group „Brainstorm” songs.

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Architecture in Latvia

Art Nouveau is a style from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its use in architecture led to the present-day style system. The basic principle of the creative approach of Art Nouveau was the expression of a building’s utilitarian elements (planning, construction methods and materials) through an artistic image. A variety of formal artistic trends can be observed in the architecture of Art Nouveau (Eclectically Decorative Art Nouveau, Rationalistic, mostly the so called Perpendicular Art Nouveau and National Romanticism). The ornamental decor does not determine the essence of the style, although within the artistic synthesis of Art Nouveau buildings, decorative ornaments are often take forms that are characteristic only of Art Nouveau. The development of Art Nouveau in Riga coincides with the city’s period of unprecedented prosperity and a sudden expansion of the population. Over a period of several years more than 100 multi-story stone buildings were erected. The distinctive look of Riga’s central district took shape in the early 20th century. By 1904, the eclectic characteristic of Riga’s late 19th century architecture completely disappeared. Approximately 40% of all buildings in the central district are in the Art Nouveau style. This is considerably more than in any other city in the world.

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Folk dress

Folk dress in Latvia has played and still plays an important symbolic role in the preservation of national values and cultural heritage and in the creation of a feeling of unity of the people. Today folk dress has a different application than in earlier centuries and now it is worn only on festive occasions or during performances.Typical footwear were pastalas, a simple shoe made of a single piece of leather and tied with laces. Each region has its characteristic differences of Latvian folk expressed in colours and complicated ornaments.

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Ancient Latvian dress (7th-13th century)

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"Pastalas"

Celebrations and days of remembrance

Latvia loves celebrations, and there are both official holidays and days of remembrance in Latvia, as well as beloved popular celebrations. Most holidays are declared public holidays. We will provide you with a guide to celebrations, holidays and days of remembrance in Latvia.

• Easter: At this time in Latvia, just as all over the world, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ, while those observing ancestral traditions also mark the spring equinox. Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are official public holidays in Latvia.

• May 1: The day of election of the Constitutional Assembly of the Republic of Latvia, on which the Satversme, or constitution, of Latvia was ratified. Labour Day is also celebrated in Latvia on May 1. This is an official public holiday.

• May 4: Announcement of the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia; on this day in 1990, the parliament passed a resolution that was the starting point on the path of restoring the country’s independence. This is an official public holiday.

• Mother’s Day: Observed on the second Sunday of May, when mothers are honoured and celebrated.

• Pentecost: Celebrated by Christians on the fiftieth day after Easter. This usually falls between May 10 and June 13. This is the third most important Christian celebration after Christmas and Easter.

• June 23 and 24: The most expansive Latvian national holiday. June 23 is Līgo, when the summer solstice is celebrated (the shortest night of the year) by burning bonfires, singing, enjoying beer and cheese. The most intrepid ones jump over the bonfires, and the search for the mythical fern blossom is an important fertility ritual. June 24 is Jāņi, or St John’s day, the most popular name day in Latvia. The Jāņi period is an official public holiday.

• November 11: Lāčplēsis Day. This is a day of remembrance for the soldiers who fought for Latvian freedom. This holiday was introduced after 1919, when the young Latvian army stood its ground and prevented the German-Russian troops led by Bermondt from entering Riga.

• November 18: Day of Proclamation of the Republic of Latvia. In 1918, national representatives convened in what is now the National Theatre and proclaimed the independence of the Latvian state. This is an official public holiday.

• December 24: Christmas Eve; December 25 and 26: Christmas Day and Boxing Day (First and Second Christmas). Christians mark the birth of Jesus, while those who prefer ancestral rites observe the winter solstice at this time when dragging and burning a log is an important cleansing ritual for all the evil accrued throughout the year. Christmas is also an important family holiday that brings together the old and the young, when gifts are exchanged and poems recited in front of a decorated Christmas tree. Christmas-time is an official public holiday in the country.

• December 31: New Year’s Eve, when farewell is said to the old year and the new year is ushered in. The New Year is a widespread celebration, and December 31 and January 1 are public holidays in Latvia. Latvia has a number of remembrance days when national flags at half mast and black ribbons commemorate those who perished in the struggle for Latvia. In Latvia celebrate not only birthdays, but name days too.

Latvia has a number of remembrance days when national flags at half mast and black ribbons commemorate those who perished in the struggle for Latvia. In Latvia celebrate not only birthdays, but name days too.

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"Jāņi"

Yet this is only a small drop in the sea of Latvia’s history and cultural sites and events. If you are interested in ancient folk traditions (that really can infatuate everyone, even the biggest sceptic), if you are a fan of old castles and historic estates, if you are interested in art and museums, and if you would like to be part of all that to be present at the Song and Dance Festival, then welcome – you are in the right place!

Weather

Both ends of the year are white, and the middle is green - this is how national poet Ojārs Vācietis described Latvia. Because Latvia’s climate is its wealth – Latvia is located in such a geographical zone,which allows one to enjoy the magic and the differences of the four seasons, which is mostly not possible elsewhere in Europe. More than one world traveller has called Latvia paradise on earth, because it has no earthquakes, volcano eruptions, nor destructive tornadoes, devastating floods, harsh winters, nor burning heat, nor droughts. And they are, indeed, right, because Latvia is situated in the temperate climate zone and the weather conditions are influenced by the proximity of the Baltic Sea. Therefore the climate in Latvia is mild and humid, without extreme fluctuations in temperature; however, it's true that the weather conditions are unsettled and changeable. Nevertheless Latvia has four pronounced seasons – winter, spring, summer and autumn. Fluffy snow, bright sunshine without freezing cold ... Winters in Latvia are for the most part like that, usually starting in mid-December and lasting till mid-March. However, it is worth noting that because of the variable climate the weather conditions in winter can change – even though the average temperature in winter is around – 6°C, the cold can reach even – 30°C, and spring-like warm weather can set in, with temperature staying above zero. So, even if the climate in Latvia is not too harsh, in winter it is advisable to have warmer clothes, a hat and gloves.

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Sometimes spring comes to Latvia already at the end of February, but it also happens that winter retreats only in April. Nature starts awakening in March, when the first migratory birds return to Latvia, and bushes and flowers blossom in forests. In spring warm and sunny weather can suddenly be replaced by arctic air masses, causing steep decrease in temperature and even bringing snow. Moreover, it must be noted that in Latvia frost can occur even till mid-June! However, Latvian spring gives unforgettable sensations – the awakening of nature, bird-cherry trees, lilac and apple trees in blossom, the twittering of birds, and the rapid high waters in rivers, which make Latvia into an excellent site for water tourism.

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Summer in Latvia lasts from June till August. July is the hottest month, with the air temperature reaching even 35 degrees, but the average temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius. Summers in Latvia are sunny, but not so hot as to cause discomfort. In Latvia during summer one can sunbathe and swim on the hundred-kilometre long sandy beaches. However, when choosing one’s clothes, one should remember that summer evenings in Latvia sometimes are quite cool. During the second half of summer it often rains; moreover, July and August is characterised by a climate phenomenon typical of Latvia – thunderstorms, sometimes accompanied by strong gusts of wind and heavy showers.

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Rains are most frequent in autumn, as everywhere. However, this kind of weather alternates with a warm and sunny Indian summer, when the daytime temperature can rise even above 20° C. Sometimes the first snow takes people by surprise in October and November, but it melts quickly. Autumns in Latvia are especially spectacular, because the tree tops are coloured in red and yellow, and the vast forests bring visual enjoyment with the variety of colours, while migratory birds gather in flocks and fly to hot countries.

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Traditional food and drinks in Latvia

Latvia is a real paradise for gourmands – here you can enjoy a traditional meal as well as modern cuisine. Eating well is popular in Latvia and, also, as Latvia is on the crossroads between East and West, and North and South, you can observe the influence of many different national cuisines and enjoy the result – borrowing the best from each.

Food in Latvian cuisine is rich in calories and Latvians like eating out. In everyday life a Latvian would indulge in meat croquettes, meat and fish, pork ribs, steamed sauerkraut, baked potatoes with sour cream, vegetable salads, soups, but for the ancient annual festivities – Easter, the Summer Solstice (Jāņu day), the Autumn Solstice (Mārtiņi day), and Christmas – a Latvian would opt for traditional food and old traditions. Then, the dark rye bread, grey peas, baked or stewed pork, variously prepared vegetables, home-made fresh cheese, fish, meat pies, cakes, biscuits and desserts made of local fruits and berries topped with whipped cream are put on the table, along with beer and home-made wine. But this is only a part of the treat – every Latvian hostess is happy if she can surprise guests with something special seen in a restaurant, on a trip, in a magazine or a cookbook. Traditional dishes to taste are Ķimeņu siers (caraway cheese), Borsch (beet soup), Rasols (Salad made of patatoes, marinated cucumbers, meat, mayonnaise, green peas), Sauerkraut, also the balck bread soup with whipped cream. Popular drinks are Latvian made beer, home made wine (from black berries, cranberiess, strawberiess, cherries, apples and many others), Riga black balsam. The Riga black balsam is a trademark of Riga, made by pharmacist Kunze firstly as a medicine with a very specific taste. Pickled mushrooms are also a Latvian specialty. Seaside restaurants offer fresh seafood.

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Social program

There will be many activities organised for you in this summer! There will be Tour evening with guide in Old Town to show you the best pubs, restaurants and „must see objects” in Riga, excursions to Museums, like The Pauls Stradins museum of the History of Medicine and Chocolate Museum where you are allowed to eat planty of chocolate. Also, it is planned to visit the oldest cinema in Riga as well as there will be movie night in modern cinema, will go to Riga’s ZOO, you will be taken to see Central Market where you can buy everything fresh for your daily meals! For weekends we have planned excursions to Latvia’s districts for 2 days where you will see most popular Latvian traditions, celebrations and festivals!

Exchange conditions

http://www.ifmsa.net/public/ecscope.php?id=83


Feedback

Irene Pappa, exchange student from Greece: The doctors in hospitals always tried to help me understand better and communicate with patients. The most important experience for me was that I assisted in operations and felt more like a doctor than a student of medicine. Personally I recommend Latvia for next exchange term to students.

Cities offered for exchange

Riga - <-- this is your source page for the city page