Year — Fall 2019
Application deadline: December 5, 2018
During your time in Latvia you’ll be exposed to new family, friends, language, and culture. At school you’ll have the opportunity to make new friends and learn all about the ancient and unique culture of Latvia, which has always been a bridge between east and west. Latvia is currently experiencing a cultural rebirth, making this a very exciting time to be there.
Russian influence in Latvia has always been very pronounced and there’s still a large Russian community, so you might have the opportunity to learn Russian as well as Latvian! Meat is an important part of the diet, so be prepared to find it in most meals. Riga, the capital of Latvia, used to be called ‘The Paris of the North,’ for its architecture and vibrant social life.
Your program will begin in New York City, where you’ll meet your fellow AFSers from the US. You’ll attend a brief orientation, where you’ll learn some key information for your first few days in Latvia. Then, you’re off! You’ll travel together with your group to Riga, where you’ll be met by AFS Staff or Volunteers.
On your way to your host community you’ll get a glimpse of the beautiful Latvian landscape, with its numerous lakes, rolling hills, plains, rivers, and pristine pine forests. You might also see some of the folk festivals that happen throughout the year all over Latvia. These festivals celebrate Latvian culture through dances, songs, and poetry. You’ll also see people wearing traditional Latvian clothing, especially as you pass through some of the smaller villages.
AFS students have lived in many different parts of Latvia. You could be with either a Latvian-speaking family or a Russian-speaking family, but either way you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn both languages. Latvian families often spend lots of time together; many urban families own country cottages, where they go on the weekends and during holidays. It’s common for elderly people to live with their family so you might be living with some host-grandparents
During your time in Latvia you’ll have a lot of opportunities to make friends and socialize. For most teenagers in Latvia school is the major priority but you’ll be able to take part in all kinds of extracurricular activities too. Swimming, dancing, basketball, martial arts, and track are all popular . In the winter, people enjoy skiing or snowboarding. Latvia is also well-known for its choral singing and folk dances!
In Latvian families it’s very important to sit down together for a meal, rather than grabbing something on the go. Meat and potatoes are staple ingredients and smoked fish and sausages are popular too. In the summer and fall you’ll get to try lots of delicious berry pies. Hearty bread is served with every meal and dinner is nowadays becoming the most important meal of the day. In urban areas it’s pretty common to eat out at restaurants.
High school in Latvia runs from September through May. Classes are Monday through Friday from 8AM to 3PM. Public schools are either Russian-speaking or Latvian-speaking and you could be placed in either one depending on where you’re living. Some of the core classes include Latvian language and literature, history of Latvia, and math. You’ll also be able to choose between a wide variety of electives
"Life-changing" is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad.
"Transformed" is another one. When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. That transformation isn’t visible only to you, though - others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers, ranging from language fluency to intercultural competence and critical reasoning. "Life-changing" means it’s only the beginning.
Please Note: Travel date ranges are meant to help with general scheduling and are subject to change; please don’t book any travel based on these dates until you’ve received confirmation from AFS. All programs, prices, and travel dates are subject to change without notice.