Young Estonians who were born or live abroad are getting acquainted with Estonian culture and language this week at a summer camp in Viljandi County.
In total, 66 young people -aged between 13 and 18 - from 20 different countries will take part in three exchanges at the Venevere language camp. All of them have roots or family ties in Estonia.
Local youngsters are supporting and helping the campers to learn the Estonian language through social activities.
Epp Adler, the organizer of the camp, said the goal is to give these young people their own piece of Estonia.
She said: "Very occasionally at this age, Estonia looks like it's only for older people or for the grandparents. Many young people were born in another country but have no idea about Estonian nationality. As my mother has said, it is like I have to care about something. That's why we want friends from this country. And Estonian language is part of building the new bonds between new friends. They organize plays, film nights and all the language practice happens with people in their own age."
The purpose of the 11-day camp is to encourage young Estonians living abroad to speak in Estonian, even if they speak it incorrectly. Despite the global coronavirus crisis, young Estonians abroad were very interested in attending the language camp.
Alex from Romania even agreed to be in a mandatory two-week self-isolation in Estonia before the camp.
Speaking about his experiences at the summer camp, he said: "I have friends, my Estonian language has developed. We have Estonian language lessons that I absolutely enjoy [them]. I would never think it would be so much fun here, it's definitely much nicer with new friends. I really feel that I am not longer a tourist in Estonia but an actual resident."
Paula from Austria thinks it is easier to learn the difficult Estonian language in a social environment. She added: "Two years ago I found this camp and now I am more in touch with Estonians and the country as well. I have found many friends from here. It's great to be here, I can speak in the Estonian language here whereas in Austria I cannot do it."
The Integration Foundation has been organizing camps since 2000.
Editor: Katriin Eikin Sein