Young Estonians enjoy the summer in the Estonian language camp
Written by Cassandra Uus (trainee at the Ministry of Culture)
Every year, a language camp is organised for young people aged 13-18 who are of Estonian origin and live abroad to teach them Estonian language and culture. This year was no different.
They also explore Estonia, exercise and make new friends of similar backgrounds. This year, the camp was held in three shifts according to Estonian language skills – the first was for beginners; the second had advanced students and the third was for children fluent in Estonian. Colleagues from the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Integration Foundation went to see the last shift of the camp and met three young people to talk about their experience this year.
Photo left to right: Johannes (Austria), Mark Jakob (England), Norah (USA)
What is your background?
Johannes: My name is Johannes, I am 16 and I live in Austria.
Mark Jakob: I am Mark Jakob, I am 18 and I live in England.
Norah: My name is Norah, I am 15 and I live in America.
What is your connection to Estonia?
Johannes: Both my parents are Estonian, they moved to Austria before I was born. I was born in Austria and still live there, but I still have family in Estonia and my roots are here and we have close contacts.
Mark Jakob: As far as I know, I am 100% Estonian – all of my family has an Estonian background. I moved to England seven years ago, when I was 11.
Norah: My father is half Estonian and half Latvian, and my mother is Estonian but I have lived in America my whole life.
How did you find the compatriots’ language camp and how many times have you attended?
Johannes: My brother first went to the camp six years ago. I was 10 years old then and too young but I knew back then that I definitely want to visit the camp in the future. My mother also recommended coming here. I turned 14 two years ago and I was able to come to the camp. This is my third time here.
Mark Jakob: I can’t remember exactly but I think I was recommended by someone who had already attended the language camp before. Later, we saw an ad on Facebook by chance about this youth camp taking place and I thought, why not give it a try! I am here for the second and sadly the last time because I will be too old to attend.
Norah: We have family friends who attended the camp a few years ago and they recommended it to us. I knew immediately that I also wanted to attend. So I waited until I turned 14 to join the camp. This is my second time here.
What has been the most memorable activity in the camp?
Johannes: We had a day trip to Tartu one day. Some of us went to the Tartu Art Museum. The exhibition there featured Estonian artists, which I found really interesting. We got to know Estonian history and art history.
Mark Jakob: The camp wedding was a very interesting experience. Mainly because this was the first time for this kind of activity and it was a very fun and memorable night. The young people at the camp were told a few days in advance about the camp wedding and also that there had to be a proposal before the wedding. Everyone got to choose the role they loved – the married couple, the wedding MC, a relative or a ring bearer. It looked like a real wedding!
Norah: I think the camp wedding was the most memorable event. It was such a cool experience – we all came together, danced all night and the wedding games were a lot of fun!
What do you like best about Estonia, what keeps bringing you back?
Johannes: Visiting my family definitely brings me back here. It is also about the difference of people. In Austria, I always see the same attitude but in Estonia, it is completely different. When I come to Estonia, I am in a completely different environment and I can meet new people. The fact that I am able to talk to people of very different cultural backgrounds is a very formative and great experience to have at a young age. It has made me see that not all people are alike.
Mark Jakob: The society and the atmosphere. When I walk around in shops and see Estonian food, it makes me feel good, and when I can talk to people in Estonian, it feels different from being abroad. We are such a small nation and the way we stick together creates such a warm and cosy feeling. The feeling I have whenever I am in Estonia is my favourite part.
Norah: I like the freedom I experience here. In America, you cannot move around alone, because there is no public transport and your parents have to drive you around. In Estonia, I can just say I am going outside with friends and I can just get on a bus and go.