Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
I received a fellowship and my project was about my grandmother's life. My grandmother left Aloja, Latvia in 1944 because of World War II. This past summer I learned so much about her and her life in Aloja in Latvia. She also talked about her time that she spent with her family in Riga and always talked about how Latvia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. She never failed to tell me that I needed to go there if I ever get the chance. This past semester, I was granted the opportunity to travel to Riga, Latvia for three days and I was able to walk down the same streets that my grandmother had walked down nearly 70 years before.
The original plan was for me to fly into Riga on a Friday and spend the day in Riga before taking a train to Aloja on Saturday. However, due to fiscal reasons and just general travel issues with getting to Aloja, I was not able to go. Instead I made my way to the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia right away on Friday. This was fascinating. Because much of the world never fully recognized the joining of Latvia to the Soviet Union, Latvia recognizes the years under its rule as an occupation. It was amazing to walk through this museum and see all of the things that my grandmother had told me about such as deportation letters, clothing and other things. Also, I learned a lot through the nearly 20 books I read during my fellowship and there were also a lot of things there that were described in a lot of the books.
The next day I made my way just walking around the city. I didn't have a plan because I was originally supposed to go to Aloja. It was bitter cold and a little bit rainy, but I didn't care because I was so happy to be there. Riga is a beautiful city and it is really historic. The buildings are beautiful and it was pretty amazing how well kept the whole city was as a whole. When I arrived, I had the goal of having an authentic Latvian meal. After a long day of walking around the city and taking countless pictures, I finally found this small restaurant about the size of a double dorm room (so not that big whatsoever). There was hardly any English spoken, but I didn't matter. It was one of the best meals I had had in all of Europe.
All in all the semester abroad was an experience of a lifetime. But the opportunity to walk streets, enter buildings and see sights that my grandmother had once lived and breathed on was truly incredible.