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Photo from the private archive.
Photo from the private archive.
Photo from the private archive. Photo from the private archive.
Matteo Frey from Switzerland: Mingling with People is my Hobby


Matteo Frey is an ERASMUS exchange student from Switzerland. He participates in various activities outside his studies and wishes to take every opportunity offered in Riga and Latvia.

Tell us about yourself, where are you from and what are you studying?

My name is Matteo and I am from Switzerland. I have spent most of my life in Interlaken, a village between two lakes in the very heart of the country and the Alps. Before coming to Latvia, I lived in Bern, which is closer to the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Olten, where I studied international management.

In my studies in Switzerland, I focused on finance and business, therefore, in Latvia I pay more attention to politics and social sciences. I also take the opportunities given by the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU and try to attend as many events as possible.

I studied Latvian in the first semester, but unfortunately I have no time for that this semester because of many compulsory courses and projects. Therefore I try to improve my knowledge of Latvian and also Russian speaking with my friends.

How did you decide to study in Latvia?

Actually, I first came to Riga five years ago as a connecting passenger. However, I remember the flight with airBaltic and the night I spent in the Riga airport as if it were yesterday. All this experience in the plane and the literature available in the airport intrigued me about Latvia. The UL is a partner university of my university, so here I am!

What are the major benefits of studying abroad?

The opportunity to see other European countries and the world, to experience another culture and history, to meet people from all around the world and to keep these contacts in the future. Living abroad helps expanding horizons and also the mind. While being here, I can see connections and opportunities that, perhaps, I wouldn’t have seen in Switzerland.

Do you remember your first day in Riga?

Yes, I remember. It was a short day, because I arrived in the evening. My roommates met me at the airport and took me to my new home. I remember crossing the bridge and the big Ferris wheel, still spinning despite late August. The city lights made me fall in love with Riga that night, and, of course, the beautiful Art Nouveau buildings along the way.

What do you think about the studies at the UL? Are they different from your studies in Switzerland?

The studies are very different because I studied at a university of applied sciences with a different approach towards students. The studies might differ also because in Switzerland only a small part of the society chooses university studies, while here almost everyone enters a university if they wish to get a good job in the future. However, the greatest difference is that students take exams. There are several tests and assignments during the semester in Latvia, while, in Switzerland, we have only the final exam. Although we might have some assignments during the semester, the final exam makes up 90% of the final grade. Since I am not willing to study very much at the end of the semester, I like the Latvian step-by-step approach to studies.

What are your activities while in Riga?

As I mentioned before, I like participating in various events related to the Latvian presidency, if there is such an option. I participated in the NGO forum as an Erasmus Student Network Riga delegate, as well as in the European Youth forum.  I am also engaged in the International Cooperation Platform DEMOLA, together with Latvian friends we have established an organization to promote recycling, as well as other projects related to sustainability.

What are your hobbies?

I would say that mingling with people is my hobby. I am very happy to meet new people and spend time together by participating in various activities or simply sharing ideas and thoughts on life. Riga has a wonderful opera house and I like going there with my friends. I also like to do sports, if I have free time. In Switzerland, I played tennis and trained in jujutsu. 

What do you miss while being in Riga?

Of course I miss my family and friends, simple things like sitting in a sofa and watching films with my sister. Here in Latvia, I don’t have time to watch TV or relax in general. I feel that Riga and Latvia give so many opportunities and I want to experience them all. I will definitely miss that in Switzerland.

What would you like to say to our readers?

What I often want to remind to all Latvians about is that you have an amazing country with a rich history and many opportunities. Therefore Latvians shouldn’t look only at the negative side of their history as they often do. People have to accept everything from it: all the knowledge and experience, as well as diversity, because acceptance of diversity is characteristic of   modern Europe and it is the major idea in the EU. Yes, I say it as a Swiss, and I don’t always agree with the EU policy, but I admire this idea.