NSLI-Y Russian students in Latvia experienced a fulfilling and exciting summer focused on language learning but made time for excursions to various cities for a deeper study into culture and history.
NSLI-Y students visited the Dinaburg Fortress (also known as the Daugavpils Fortress), which lies on the banks of the Daugava River. Students enjoyed a walking tour around the main points of the Fortress, the only early 19th century military fortification of its kind in Northern Europe that has been preserved without significant alterations. The Fortress is also the site of the Mark Rothko Art Centre. Students participated in a wonderful tour of the museum, in which they learned more about Mark Rothko’s life, work, and legacy. Students began learning about the early life of the great abstract expressionist painter, while also learning about the thriving Russian-Jewish community that lived in early-1900s Daugavpils (then known as Dvinsk). The Rothko Room contains six original Rothko paintings, all of which were donated to the museum by his children, and the students had the incredible opportunity to appreciate the original work of one of the 20th century’s greatest artists.
During their last week abroad, NSLI-Y students traveled to Ventspils to celebrate the city’s 725th birthday. Ventspils is a small coastal city situated on the Venta River and the Baltic Sea and is notable for its ice-free port, the busiest in the Baltic Region. While in Ventspils, NSLI-Y students spent most of their time on the Osta Street promenade, where they had the opportunity to sample traditional Latvian foods, buy a slew of local souvenirs, and listen to live musical performances, ranging from Latvian folk to contemporary alternative rock. In addition to the festivities, NLSLI-Y students had the opportunity to learn more about the city of Ventspils and its history. Students also stopped at Rundale Palace, one of two major palaces built for the Dukes of Courland. NSLI-Y students had a guided tour throughout the Palace, where they learned more about Rundale’s construction and history, while appreciating the majestic architecture and lavish décor.
NSLI-Y students in Latvia celebrated their final week in Daugavpils by giving several performances of material they learned in class. Students visited the museum-home of the poet Rainis, Latvia’s Pushkin. Participants gathered there with their teachers, language partners, and host families to celebrate their time in Latvia with a slideshow, songs, a play performance, and Latvian food. Students also had the opportunity to perform in traditional Latvian costumes. Following the formal ceremony, students and their language partners sang songs and relaxed before their long trip back home.