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Posted on Sep 7, 2015

Chris Shabow | Beginning Estonian BALSSI 2015

I am not of Baltic descent, but I discovered an interest in Estonian history and a passion for its culture while in grad school. When I discovered the BALSSI program, I decided to take a chance with the language. I looked forward with eager anticipation to the start of the classes. The first week passed by in a blur as I emerged into the mysterious world of the Estonian language. Every moment was focused on absorbing a deluge of information and attempting to remember what we learned in the weeks before. As I struggled to master Estonian vocabulary and grammar, Liina-Ly proved to be the most patient and compassionate instructor. After classes ended, I was reading an article on Estonia’s Song Festival tradition. Midway through, I noticed I wasn’t stumbling over the Estonian words peppered throughout, and I smiled. This summer is only the beginning of what will be a long and fulfilling...

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Posted on Sep 7, 2015

Len Barcousky (Barkauskas) | Intermediate Lithuanian @ BALSSI 2015

  What did I get out of my experiences as a student in 2014 and 2015 at BALSSI? A working vocabulary of about 1,000 words, ability to use verb tenses and a basic understanding of number, case and gender in grammatical forms. That technical knowledge, however, was the less important part of what I learned from my teacher, Dalia Cidzikaite. I was encouraged to be fearless in experimenting with my new language skills. I gained confidence in writing, speaking, reading and singing in the language of my grandparents. I worked as hard in class as I ever have in 40 years of doing daily journalism. I found that hard work paying off with concrete improvement after each day and week of a truly intensive program. At age 65 I was not only the oldest student at BALSSI, but likely older than anyone else on the entire faculty and staff at SLI. Age proved to be no barrier to interaction with my follow students as we regularly ate together, sang...

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Posted on Sep 7, 2015

Margarita Safronova | Intermediate Latvian @ BALSSI 2015

BALSSI provides an excellent opportunity to learn a language and interact with fellow scholars who are interested in the region. As a doctoral student who studies the post-Soviet states, I was looking for an intense language course to prepare me for research in Latvia. Enrollment at BALSSI was the ideal opportunity to improve my knowledge of Latvian. The six-week session was rigorous but effective. By the end of the program, I was eager to converse in Latvian. However, the benefits of the program extend beyond the classroom. During the six weeks, students from different disciplines and backgrounds had a chance to interact and learn about culture, history, and values of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian nations. Learning songs and traditions of different countries contributed to a better understanding of the Baltic states. In addition, the lectures by visiting scholars provided cross-disciplinary perspectives about prominent issues in the region. The students had a chance to speak directly to the visiting scholars, adding to the well-rounded curriculum. BALSSI courses helped me revive...

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Posted on Dec 8, 2014

Study Estonian, Latvian and Lithuania at BALSSI 2015

The University of Pittsburgh’s Slavic, East European, and Near Eastern Summer Language Institute proudly hosts The Baltic Studies Summer Institute June 8 – July 17, 2015 Beginning and intermediate Estonian Beginning and intermediate Latvian Beginning and intermediate Lithuanian 6-week, 6-credit classes cover an academic year’s worth of study Generous scholarships available; FLAS eligible Classes held at University of Pittsburgh...

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Posted on Sep 12, 2013

BALSSI 2013 – Language, Culture and Food!

The 2013 Baltic Studies Summer Institute (BALSSI) offered three intensive language courses at the University of Pittsburgh: Beginning Estonian, Beginning Latvian, and Beginning Lithuanian. A total of five undergraduates, five graduate students, and three community members participated in these courses. Research interests of students in this year’s program included 20th century Lithuanian history, ethnomusicology in Latvia, the Russian-speaking minority in Estonia, and Estonia’s role in international cyber security. BALSSI 2013 was enhanced by a rich program of lectures, films and other cultural offerings, which were free and open to the public. Pitt’s Summer Language Institute (SLI) held picnics every Friday, featuring a different East European cuisine prepared by the students themselves (including a week dedicated to Baltic cuisines) along with regional music. Students also participated in weekly singing lessons taught in the target languages and attended the annual St. John’s Day celebration at Pittsburgh’s Lithuanian Country Club. This year’s SLI cultural program included screenings of one Latvian and one Lithuanian film, as well as four lectures by scholars working on...

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Posted on Aug 15, 2012

BALSSI Students Gain Language Competency

The 2012 Baltic Studies Summer Institute offered four intensive language courses at the University of Pittsburgh: beginning Latvian, intermediate Latvian, beginning Lithuanian, and beginning Estonian. A total of six undergraduates, six graduate students, and three community members participated.  BALSSI 2012 was enhanced by a rich program of lectures and cultural offerings. All of these events were free and open to the public. Attendance at each event ranged from 15 to 90 people. In addition, Pitt’s Summer Language Institute picnics were held every Friday, featuring a different East European or Balkan cuisine prepared by the students themselves and regional music. The program also included lectures by scholars working on the Baltic countries, as well as weekly singing lessons in the target languages. “Extracurricular activities were helpful for a feeling of immersion and cultural competency … As a musician, the time spent studying folklore and folk songs was incredibly enriching.” (A beginning Latvian language student) “I’m so impressed with the progress I’ve made that I’m considering taking the intermediate course next...

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