Week one at Kursa

Kursa Latvian Summer High School began its 42nd year on July 9, a sunny day at the West Coast Latvian Education Center in Shelton, Washington. Kursa gives young people between the ages of 13 and 18 the opportunity to begin or continue their Latvian education, regardless of their Latvian language level. This year, not only have all of last year’s students returned (in 2016 Kursa restarted the program), but an additional 10 students have joined the Kursa family. While Kursa is nominally the West Coast Latvian High School, we not only have students from Washington, Oregon, and California, but also from Minnesota, Maryland, Iowa, and Canada, as well as two returning students from Latvia. Our teachers reflect a similar geography, coming from California, Alaska, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, and Latvia. Together, we form a tight-knit community. We are especially glad that students who may not have previously had the opportunity to be part of Latvian society are able to begin their Latvian education and develop their connection to Latvia with other students here at Kursa.

We have already done a lot in the first week at Kursa. All of our students have taken official Latvian language exams in writing, reading, speaking and understanding. We have begun classes (language, literature, history, ethics and folklore), in which students are grouped by their Latvian language level. Already we have become familiar with some of the brightest Latvian authors, including Vizma Belševica an Imants Ziedonis. Our voices and feet are also moving, preparing for our final program: “Sun and Moon.” We have even made it to the seaside, where we spent a nice day enjoying the Pacific Northwest coastline.

Why have these young people come to Kursa? In their own words:

Ella (14, California): “I want to dance folk dances, improve my Latvian language, and bake pīrāgi.” 

Elmārs (17, Riga): “I want to refresh my folk dance skills, learn Latvian metalsmithing, and help other students learn to speak Latvian. I’m at Kursa because it is a great place to spend time.”

Roland (17, Portland): “I want to learn new words, folk dance, and Latvian history, and meet up with my old friends.”

Zippa (13, Minnesota): “I’m at Kursa because Kursa is great! I can learn about Latvian language, music, and culture. I would like to meet new friends and learn new songs at Kursa.”



21 days in the Kursa atmosphere

Kursa is the first summer camp I have ever been to. I never had any interest in them before. But Kursa is no ordinary summer program, it is something much more than that. My time at Kursa has been full of value and emotion. In just a few days, it felt like one big family. Although I already speak Latvian fluently and am from Latvia, I learned a lot at Kursa: how to forge a new ring, dance folk dances, play chess and write poetry. Kursa is a place for anyone who wants to feel close to Latvia in America. It is a little Latvia, you can see it in the surroundings and in the people. But Kursa also has its own traditions, which I learned about later – or should I say, at night. A big part of Kursa is the “nightlife,” with pranks (good-natured) or walks. After these three wonderfully-spent weeks I can say that Kursa is a place to connect with your Latvianness and meet American Latvian young people. I really hope that I will have the opportunity to come back next year, so that I can continue to enjoy Latvian folklore and life at Kursa.

I would like to thank all those who gave me the opportunity to attend these three weeks at Kursa, especially the initiative of new director Indra Ekmane.

See you soon!

— Erlands Griezītis, 14 (Liepāja, Latvia)
LBVŠ 2016 scholarship recipient

Rotkalšana Kursā
Erlands Griezītis and metalwork teacher, Andris Rūtiņš, create an ethnographic-inspired ring.

Caleb Beideck: First year at Kursa a wonderful experience

My first week here at Kursa has been a wonderful experience full of fun and learning. During even such a short time, I have already learned so much about the language and culture of Latvia. I’m sure that thanks to the wonderful teachers, I will continue to learn tons more over the rest of my stay. The staff here are all wonderfully supportive and talented. The food is always absolutely delicious. Every day is a new adventure in my culture. I’m so excited to keep working with my Kursa family. Read more at ALJAziņas.

— Caleb Beideck, 16
ALJA 2016 scholarship recipient

Latvian kitchen 2016
Maija Atvara leads the Latvian cuisine interest group. Students: Anna Akots, Aleks Brainerd, Krišjānis Lūsis, Caleb Beideck, Erlands Griezītis, Lauren Barlow