Matthew Shaw from Canada

I was intrigued about studying in a country I was not familiar with

Matthew Shaw, a student of the University of Latvia, standing in front of the Rundale Palace in Latvia.Matthew Shaw from Canada is a Bachelor's student of Asian Studies at the University of Latvia, studying Linguistics – Sinology. Here is his unusual story why he chose Latvia as his study destination for learning Mandarin Chinese.

I had never been to Europe before

“The last time I was a full-time student was around 10 years ago. I had a plan to return to postsecondary school to improve my Mandarin Chinese. I had worked and lived in China in the past and I fell in love with the people and the culture there.

Of course, the obvious choice would be to move to China to learn Chinese. However, if I were going to return to University one last time, I wanted to study somewhere I had never been before and where I could challenge myself in new ways. After scouring the internet for universities that offer Mandarin Chinese, I found my choices outside of China to be quite limited. Studying in Europe was very appealing to me as I had never been to Europe before.

One of the Universities that caught my eye was the only University located in a country I was not very familiar with. I did know some of Latvia's twentieth century history but other than that, I knew almost nothing about Latvia. The more I researched and learned about Latvia the more intrigued I was about studying here. Riga appeared to be a reasonably sized picturesque city, conveniently located in the Baltics. The cost of education is very economically affordable here as well as the education is accredited in Canada.

Living here in Latvia is very affordable

After applying and being accepted to the University of Latvia's bachelor of Asian studies linguistics program, I sacrificed and worked hard to save enough money to pay for my education and a reasonable amount to sustain myself while studying full time. For me coming from Canada even with the exchange rate, the cost of living here in Latvia is very affordable. Although my family and friends had no idea where Latvia was, they were excited for me and supported my return to school.

Being the only native English speaker in my entire faculty, has made me a bit of an anomaly here in Latvia. Every single person I've encountered since arriving here has asked me why I would choose to study in Latvia being from Canada. For me it just makes sense.

Riga is even more beautiful and picturesque than I could have imagined. Besides the few cultural differences, for me the most difficult part of living in Latvia has been the language barrier. Most Latvians can speak some English, but I do find myself struggling to understand labels on food at the grocery store and communication with some people I encounter in my daily life. But these challenges motivate me to practice and study the local language which is also offered at the university.

Completely positive experience

I'm impressed by Latvian's patriotism and how hardworking and motivated the people are here. You might have heard that the Latvian people are considered to be "cold people''. I've found the people here keep to themselves until you interact with them and then they are extremely friendly, welcoming, and excited to show you their country and explain their unique culture to you. I've made a lot of very good friends in the community, at the university, in my student hotel, and with other local international students.

For me being a mature student has been a completely positive experience and has better equipped me for academic success as well as making my experience so far from home a positive one. Although there have been some challenges due to the coronavirus, my experience here in Latvia has been a very positive one so far and I am excited to continue to challenge myself and I look forward to my studies here over the next three years.”