Studies » Guide for Foreign Students

Guide for Foreign Students in Latvia


Latvia is often called Amberland because small pieces of amber can be found on the Baltic seashore. Latvians call amber the sunstone, - according to ancient folk legends it brings luck.
Latvia is a state in northern Europe. It lies on the eastern coast of the Baltic sea. Latvia`s territory covers 64 589 sq.km bordering with Estonia, Lithuania, Russia and Byelorussia. The coastline of the Baltic sea is 480 km long. Among world countries similar in size to Latvia are Lithuania (65 300 sq.km), Sri Lanka (65 600 sq.km), Ireland (70 300 sq.km). The longest river is Daugava - 1020 km. Highest point - Gaiziņš (312 m). Latvia is divided into four historical and cultural regions, each with its own specific history and cultural traditions - Kurzeme (western part of Latvia), Zemgale (central ), Vidzeme (northern) and Latgale (eastern part). Population - 2 331 480 (2004). Density of population - 42 people per square kilometer which is considerably smaller than the average in Europe. Ethnic Latvians make up 58% and Russians - 29,3% of the population; the rest are Byelorussians, Ukrainians, Poles, Lithuanians and various minorities.
Climate is moderately continental with rather mild winters. Average temperatures: July + 19 C, February - 5 C, although several days in winter can be really cold, up to - 25 C.
The official language is Latvian, which is similar to Lithuanian, - both form the Baltic group of Indo-European languages.
Religion is predominantly Lutheran, although Roman Catholicism is dominating in Latgale - the eastern part of Latvia; Russian Orthodox, Jewish, as well as different religious minorities also exist.


Latvia`s advantageous geographical position at the crossing of ancient commercial routes from Eastern to Western Europe and its non-freezing seaports providing outlets into the Baltic have long since determined the development of our country. A long time ago this area was inhabited by hunting and fishing tribes. New Indo-European tribes living by stock-raising and farming appeared in 2500 BC, - they were ancestors of the Baltic tribes - Kurši, Zemgaļi, Letgaļi; Līvi - a Ugro-Finnish tribe - lived along the sea coast. The Latvian nationality came into being as a result of convergence of those tribes. At the end of the 12th century the German invasion broke the peaceful flow of life - the crusade began, and in 1201 AD German bishop Albert founded the city of Riga, although in chronicles it was mentioned in 1198 already. In 1282 Riga joined the Hanseatic League. The Livonian Order - local branch of the Teutonic Order - ruled in the Baltic for over three centuries. After the Livonian war in 1561 Riga acquired the rights of free city. In 1621 in the course of Polish-Swedish war Riga and northern Latvia was conquered by Sweden. In 1710 forces of Peter the Great arrived in Riga, and in 1721 Latvia was joined to the Russian Empire. In 1819 serfdom was abolished, and at the end of the 19th century Riga was the third industrial city in tzarist Russia after Moscow and St.Petersburg. Latvia declared its independence in 1918 and developed as democratic country till coup-d-etat in 1934. In 1940 as a result of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union and in 1941, soon after the beginning of World War II, by Nazis. In 1944 Latvia was repeatedly incorporated into the Soviet Union. In 1987 first open protests again the Soviet rule started in Riga introducing the so called "Song Revolution". In 1989 Latvians along with Estonians and Lithuanians formed human chain protesting against the consequences of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The battle for freedom of the Baltic peoples contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and in 1991 Latvia was proclaimed as independent country. In 1999 the parliament (Saeima) elected Latvia`s first female President - Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga. In 2004, April 2, Latvia became a member state of NATO, but on May 1 - a new member of European Union.  

Music Education in Latvia

Music as constituent part of general education and independent subject is included in programmes of all schools in Latvia (Grades 1 to 6 - two lessons a week, Grades 7 to 9 - one lesson a week; in secondary schools it is an elective subject). School choirs meet once in five years on the Song and Dance Festivals of Latvian Children and Youth. Several schools offer more music lessons together with possibility to master performance of some instrument.
There are 112 Music and Art Schools in Latvia with a total number of 16 600 children mastering different instruments, music theoretic subjects (solfeggio, music literature, theory), participating in various ensembles, orchestras and choirs. Competitions and festivals for talented children are arranged on regular basis.
The most talented pupils continue music education on the secondary level - over 800 students in 9 music secondary schools. Upon graduation they receive certificate of general secondary education together with with the deploma of secondary professional music education and corresponding qualification. The best graduates continue professional music education at Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music. Those who have chosen profession of music teacher in general education schools can study also on Music Education Departments at Liepāja Pedagogical Academy, Daugavpils Pedagogical Academy or Riga Institute of Education Management.
This multi-level pyramid of music education characteristic for Latvia is the foundation of all musical culture in our country.  

Useful Information

  • Official teaching language at the Latvian Academy of Music is Latvian, but individual study courses are available also in Russian, German and English. Foreign students intending to stay longer than 3 months can take Latvian language courses for foreigners offered by the University of Latvia and Riga Technical University.
  • Within 3 days from the enrolment international students receive student identity card at the ISIC Office /Torņu street 4, Old Riga/ which entitles them for travel discounts in public transport, various discounts on theatre and concert tickets, as well as use of Academy library, phonoteque, videotheque and rooms for practicing. Practice rooms cannot be reserved in advance, except for Saturdays and Sundays. In order to obtain internet access, username and password, all students have to register with the Network Administrator. There is no charge for using the computers.
  • Office of International Relations and Office of Student Affairswill provide all the necessary information about practical matters, as well as assistance in working out individual study curriculum and official transcript of records in English/German at the end of the study period.
  • It is necessary to apply for residence permit at the Department of Migration and Citizenship if study period exceeds 3 months. All information about the necessary documents can be obtained at the Office of International Relations.
  • Health care - it is advisable to obtain medical insurance before arrival in Latvia. In case of necessity you can contact outpatient clinic " ARS" , Skolas st. 5, tel. +371 67201001, +371 67201007, or "Veselības centrs 4", Kr.Barona St. 117, tel. +371 67271620, +371 67312512. Several state and private hospitals will take care of you in case of emergency.
  • There are several student hostels in Riga, however places are limited and have to be booked well in advance. There are several agencies in Riga which can help also with private housing arrangements.

Average Student Expenses in Riga

Although the price range is similar to major European cities, Riga is a relatively expensive city. The average monthly expenses are as follows:

Activities EUR
Renting a 2-room flat in the city centre (per month)
300.00 - 800.00
Renting a room (per month) 150.00 - 250.00
Student hostel (per night) 20.00
Food (per month) 200.00
A meal in the JVLMA canteen 2.50 - 4.00
A meal in a restaurant (no drinks) 12.00 - 30.00
Study materials, copying 5.00 - 20.00
Monthly travelcard (with student discount) 10.00 - 16.00
Single bus, tram, trolleybus ticket 1.20
Prepaid mobile phone card 5.00 - 20.00
Theatre ticket 5.00 - 25.00
Concert ticket 5.00 - 30.00
Cinema ticket 2.95 - 6.19 
JVLMA Sports Centre Free to all JVLMA students

last modified: 17.01.2014 10:31