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Erasmus Testimonial – Software Project Management BIP in Riga, Latvia

Four of us participated in this blended intensive programme. From the second year of the Software Engineering study programme: Dominik Despot, Farah Mulaomerović, and Adela Žučko, and from the third year, our colleague Hrvoje Baršun. Our Erasmus journey began on Sunday, October 1, 2023. Each of us embarked on our own path. Hrvoje was the first to leave, using a combination of plane and bus, followed by Adela and Dominik, who had the opportunity to meet Professor Danijel Kučak, the head of the Software Engineering study programme, on their first flight, who was also going to Riga for the BIP program. Lastly, Farah also traveled by plane.

Upon landing, we immediately noticed significant differences compared to life in Zagreb. The crisp sea air and vast green spaces were the first welcome sights. Riga is surrounded by dense forests and filled with large parks. Due to Riga's strategic location as a port hub, massive railway complexes can also be seen. We also heard from the locals that in Riga, you can find a park or a railway track every 100 meters.

Our BIP took place at the Transport and Telecommunication Institute in the capital of Latvia, Riga, from 2 to 6 October, 2023. The program's focus was "Software Project Management," which piqued our interest due to its relevance to our field of study.

Regarding the academic aspect, we have only praise for our experience within the BIP programme. The Transport and Telecommunication Institute is an excellent educational institution with fantastic staff. We felt at home there, and everything, from the professors to the equipment, was of a high standard. Of course, it's not like Algebra, but more than enough for our needs. Our professor, Dr. Mohammad Soltani, had a highly engaging and interesting way of teaching. From practical work to constant thought-provoking questions, the professor kept student engagement at the forefront. Since most engineering students fall into the "hands-on learner" category, the most interesting parts for us were the practical examples where we could directly assume the role of a project manager. We have a final exam coming up, but we believe that, given the excellence of the professor, we will easily pass it.

Although we spent a week in Latvia, it felt much shorter because every day was filled with new experiences and the creation of lasting memories.

The architecture was another aspect that truly fascinated us because of its diversity. In Riga, you can find everything from a city center built in the "Art Nouveau" architectural style to socialist brutalist architecture and traditional wooden houses. The three most significant locations we visited in Riga were the St. Peter's Church tower, from which you could see the entire city, the Freedom Monument, popularly known as Milda, and the central market, one of the largest in the world (covering 72,300 square meters).

Since Riga is located by the Baltic Sea, the influence of the sea is also evident in the local cuisine. When we entered a local store, we noticed a rich and affordable selection of fish and seafood. In local restaurants, we tried a rich variety of Latvian dishes, including meat pancakes, cold borscht soup (Latvian: aukstā zupa), fish soup (Latvian: zivju zupa), and much more. One of the most common Latvian drinks is kvass (Latvian: kvass), which has a taste somewhere between dark beer and Coca-Cola.

One of the significant cultural differences we noticed is that people in Riga are very pragmatic and stoic in their outlook. Additionally, since Riga is located by the Baltic Sea, we were greeted by strong and continuous Baltic winds, even in low temperatures. While we, accustomed to the warm Croatian climate, felt cold, we saw local residents wearing shorts and flip-flops.

All in all, our week in Latvia was a spectacular and unforgettable experience. Everything, from personal experiences of the local culture and architecture to academic value, left an indelible mark on us that will serve us for the rest of our lives. Therefore, our answer to the question "Would we recommend the Erasmus program to other students?" is a resounding YES.

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