Vislielākais burtu izmērs
Lielāks burtu izmērs
Burtu standarta izmērs
Kanzi Ogata
Kanzi Ogata

My Experience. University of Latvia - Kanzi Ogata (video)
Sarmite Rutkovska, International Relations Department

The University of Latvia (UL) enrols several hundred foreign students each year. Video interviews with exchange students studying at the UL are offered on a regular basis in cooperation with KIVI TV, the TV channel managed by UL students. This time, KIVI TV is interviewing Kanzi Ogata from Japan. He is learning Latvian and Russian at the Baltic Study Programme.

Tell me, please, a little bit about yourself.

I am from Japan, Akita city in Northern Japan. I study liberal arts- it’s not a specified field. In liberal arts you study every field, like, science, sociology, mathematics, politics, etc.

Why did you choose Latvia as your destination?

One of the reasons is that I wanted to study in Europe, I wanted to experience something new, and another reason is that I wanted to study Russian language. My university had a partnership with the University of Latvia and also this year Riga is the European capital of Culture, so I expected that I will see and experience something new.

Had you travelled to Europe before coming to Latvia?

No, never.

Were you nervous to come here?

Yeah, the culture is completely different from my home country. I hardly ever can find some Japanese food products here. Of course, sometimes you can find cars and electronics, but that’s not very related to my student life here. Japan is very mono-ethnic country, but here it is very multi-ethnic country, so, yeah, everything is different.

When I came here it was the end of January, it was a very cold night, the temperature was like -15 degrees. So first I thought: oh, this is freezing, I don’t think I can survive here. But I somehow survived. Besides, I heard that this year’s winter was not that cold for Latvia and it was already freezing for me. And since I have to stay here until the next winter, I think it should be colder. So, I am already worrying about the next winter (laughs).

Are there any things or habits in Latvia that seem very surprising for you?

Yes, many things. For example, supermarkets, they are very different.

Do people seem different to you?

Well, actually Latvian people seem very similar to Japanese. Once I get along, they treat me very well and are very kind to me. I think they are very nice people.

Have you had some unusual experience here?

Oh, yes! Every time I am considered here as a Chinese or Korean, because. I know European people cannot distinguish “those Asian”.  For them we are very similar. It is interesting that here are many Chinese and Koreans, but not so many Japanese. I heard that there are around 30 or 40 Japanese in Latvia (not only in Riga). I met some people from the Embassy. And there is also one more Japanese student here.

Does the study process seem different for you here?

I think it is almost the same. My home university also provided classes in English. Class size here is almost similar (10-20 students). Not too big, not too small, it is easy to talk to professors. However, it seems that at the University of Latvia it is easier to ask the questions to professors and consult my study plan. Professors are very friendly.

What will you tell your friends about Latvia when you go back home?

Well, the most important thing I will tell is, where Latvia is. It is not very well known. What else? Well, most of people don’t know anything about Latvia, so I will tell them that there is a nice old town in Riga, everything is cheap here, especially the dairy products.

Do you have some Latvian friends here?

Yes, especially those who study Japanese at the University of Latvia, or high school students who study Japanese. Latvian students can learn Japanese very well. I heard that there was one student who hitchhiked around Japan by herself. So I think their Japanese language skills are very high.

Is it easy to hitchhike in Japan?

Not really, no one does it. But basically, Japanese are very kind to the foreigners. I think that is one of the reasons that she succeeded during her travel.

Does Latvia seem to you as a welcoming country to foreigners?

Yeah, I think, well.

You can say honestly.

(laughs) I think people here do not distinguish travellers from those who are studying or living here. Mostly they talk to me in English and I think it is very nice, because I am still struggling with learning Latvian and Russian. That’s one thing. At the same time, I have felt some discrimination, since I am Asian. Especially in the Old Riga or in the Central Market- sometimes they give me very high prices or give me some rotten things. So I simply do not go to Central Market anymore, and recently I am shopping at the Supermarket.

Except for discrimination, it is easy to live here, and people are very welcoming, especially when I talk to people in Latvian- then they are very kind.

But I still recommend to study here, because apart from studies and classes there are also other things to do- go to museums, etc. I visited the synagogue in the old town. Yeah, it should be a very nice experience here; it helps a lot to understand Latvia and the history of Latvia.

Also, I think the quality of the classes is very high.

Have you travelled somewhere during your this semester?

I have been to Estonia, Germany, etc.  I want to go to Russia, but I need visa for that. I actually plan to go to Japan by train via Moscow, so maybe I will visit also Saint Petersburg and Moscow at that time.

Do you plan to do the Trans-Siberian trip? Alone?

Yes, alone. It takes about a week.

What are your future plans after you finish your exchange studies at the University of Latvia?

First, I will go back to Japan and finish my final paper. I think I will look for a job, although I still haven’t decided what kind of job I want to do. But I want to use what I have learnt here- Russian or maybe Latvian. I might work in Riga or I might work in some trading company, connecting Latvia-Japan or Russia-Japan.

Do you have any hobbies?

Yes. Reading books and travelling around, especially the travelling. Since EU now has Schengen, I don’t have to apply for visa in the EU countries, it is easy to travel. One thing that is interesting for Japanese is that we can’t cross border by car or train. The only way that we can cross the border is by a ship or a plane. It’s kind of interesting.

Here in the weekends I usually spend time studying, but also visiting the Old Town, museums, etc.

What would you call an unusual experience here?

For me unusual thing in Latvia is that when you go to a bar, every beer is like a half litre. Everything is bigger. I have never seen one-pint can of beer, usually in Japan it is 350 ml or something like this. Everything is bigger. And cheaper. That is interesting.

Trolleybus 15 (laughs). I almost got my phone stolen there. The guy had already put his finger in my pocket and then I noticed. Well, that’s also kind of a foreign experience.

In Japan such things never happen. Therefore, every Japanese is told that if you go to a foreign country, you have to take care of your belongings. In Japan, if someone has dropped something, the first thing you do is to go to police.

How is it to grow up in a country where you can feel safe most of the time?

(laughs) You know, Japanese society is not based on religion, but it is based on one certain kind of ethics. There is no problem from the difference in the religions, like, Catholics or orthodox. You know, we do not have such a difference. It is based more on the personal ethics and education.