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Diaspora youth learn Latvian at summer school

A remote summer school course for diaspora youth at the University of Latvia (LU) has come to an end.  More than 40 students from different countries participated and learned about the Latvian language and culture, Latvian Radio reported July 28.

The LU summer school for young people in the diaspora started on June 14 and ended on July 27. More than 40 young people aged 17 to 35 learned the Latvian language and culture. The summer school was attended by participants from Brazil, Russia, Australia, the UK, Canada, Poland, Italy, and the US.

The summer school has been in place since 2018, and for the first two seasons, it took place in person. Last year the school was canceled due to the pandemic, and this year it was held remotely. 

Director of LU's Pre-Studies Education Center, Sarma Miltiņa said: “[..] So this year we announced in the spring that this summer's school would be remote. An unexpected number of participants came in. They have at least four hours of Latvian language per day – both speaking and grammar. Then every day they have cultural, arts, history lectures for two hours.” .

Young people learned about Latvia and its culture by attending virtual tours at various museums and “walking” through Rīga streets accompanied by a guide. Finally, the school participants took an exam and received a LU statement of what they had learned. Students can also get credit points.

Summer school members are grateful for the opportunity to learn Latvian. Many didn't have prior knowledge, but now can say a few phrases. Some were quoted by Latvian Radio:

“My name is Paula. I live in Orange, California. I'm from the US. Before these lessons, I could only say “Thanks” and “merry Christmas” in [Latvian], but now I can talk, of course, in simple phrases: where I am from, what I like, tell about my family. I think it's wonderful that we learn more about ourselves from all over the world. My grandfather fled to the US during the war and worked hard to become a US citizen and he stopped [speaking Latvian] – he did not teach us to speak Latvian, but we still had our little things – we baked pastries. These lessons helped me identify myself as a youth of the Latvian diaspora.”

“My name is Leonela. I'm from Brazil. I was born in a small Brazilian town, my parents were born in other cities 700 kilometers from where I am at the moment. My grandfather is from Latvia, but my grandmother is from Romania. Which country should I really feel I belong to? This summer school was the perfect opportunity for me to connect with myself and learn more about my roots.”

“My name is Charles, I'm from Michigan in the US. At the beginning of the lessons, I thought my family story was unique. I still think it's unique, but I learned that another 20 people in the group had similar stories. My family's story is unique, other family stories are unique, but it's nice to learn that there are other people who have had the same family history, just a little different.”

“My name is Kelly Smith. I'm from Chicago in the US. Growing up, Latvian and the culture have always been the things I've been interested in. My two Latvian grandparents told me a little about Latvia. It was difficult for them to speak Latvian, because I thought it brought sadness for them. I've always felt a sense of belonging to my Latvian identity. I think this summer school was a huge opportunity to learn and meet other young people who are also interested.”

The diaspora summer school was free. More information about it and upcoming schools is found on the LU homepage.

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