Estonian Women Students’ Society’s (ENÜS) youth camp for Estonian youngsters living abroad was a wonderful combination of studying the Estonian language, experiencing the food, culture, and history of Estonia, all while getting acquainted with Estonians from all over the world, as well as with locals from Tartu.
Altogether 23 youngsters aged 15-19 with Estonian roots took part of the camp. 17 people traveled from abroad, 6 people came from different parts of Estonia. Participants traveled to Estonia from all over the world: Australia, Ireland, Canada, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Germany, Finland, and the US.
The camp was organized by ENÜS, which is the very first academic student organization for women in Estonia. The society was founded in 1911, which was a time when the mere idea of an educated woman was appalling to most of the Estonian society. It was the first time for ENÜS to organize a youth camp. The thriving idea behind it was to give Estonia a gift for its grand 100th birthday.
Every camp day started with a pleasant walk through Tartu to the ENÜS apartment for breakfast and coffee. After breakfast, we usually had a two-hour Estonian lesson aimed at improving vocabulary and pronunciation. It was very nice for foreign Estonians to practice speaking with the locals, who were all very friendly and eager to help. After the lesson, we began our activity for the day; which was always a day trip.
Among our day trips, the camp organizers set up a tour of the city of Tartu and the University of Tartu, a trip to a famous Estonian bog called Endla raba for a hike and a swim, an excursion to the Estonian national history museum (ERM), a bus tour to Viljandi town, an evening at a typical Estonian summer home with grilling, sauna, and singing, and finally, an overnight stay at an old German manor house called Rogosi mõis where the camp participants got to meet with and learn about the whole organization who was behind the camp.
One of the most interesting day trips was the tour of the University of Tartu. We were first given an excursion of the main building and its beautiful assembly hall, the art museum, and finally, the lock-up where students who misbehaved were once kept! We also learned about the extensive history of the University of Tartu, and what foreign powers and other factors have influenced it over its hundreds of years long history. Camp goers were then given lots of information about the possibilities to study abroad in Estonia; whether their goal is to perfect their Estonian or to pursue their higher education. The presentation was very clear and helpful and helped show expatriates a clear path to studying in Estonia and reconnecting with their roots.
After visiting the main building of the University of Tartu we also learned about its four faculties. We were told about the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Faculty of Social Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Science and Technology, by visiting the Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health (Biomeedikum), Institute of Physics (Physicum) and the Institute of Technology. We were given interesting lectures, but also had the possibility to take a close look of laboratories and workrooms and even a room where students practice autopsy! But what was most interesting for camp participants, was the information that higher education in Estonia is for free. This new knowledge could probably be a strong motivation for young expatriates to plan their studies in Estonia.
Overall, the ENÜS summer language camp was a great experience that I would highly recommend to any foreign Estonian who wants to improve their language skills, eat great food, meet local Estonians, and become acquainted with the city of Tartu and the opportunities the University of Tartu provides for young expatriates to study in Estonia.
Read more about the camp here and take a look at some pictures here and here.
Sten Tolgu lives in Seattle and took part of the summer camp in Estonia.