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Ilaria Da Rin Bettina from Italy In traditionally made flower crown for the Midsummer Eve

(On the left) Camilla Soldatini from Italy In traditional Latvian folk dress in the Song and Dance Festival

Yearbook of 2017-2018

Latvia in a year is a brochure helping you to find out more about Latvia and the exchange year of the AFS students who choose this country for their destination. The journey of the students starts with an Arrival Camp and finishes a few weeks after their End-of-Stay Camp, full of memories and AFS experience. During the year they learn from their host families & school besides exploring, discovering with the support of AFS Latvia. The exchange year in Latvia hopefully brought in their lives joy and happiness, experience, full of great Latvian people & traditions, new friends and personal growth.

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Hosting team

Latvia becomes the home of 30-40 exchange students every year. This camp is the beginning of the journey and they get prepared here for the challenges and difficulties, cultural differences that they are going to face with during their journey. The students participate in 4 camps in Latvia which helps them to understand the change they are going through. The have the possibility to share their thoughts, questions with the volunteers there and get the answers they were looking for. Group photo during the Arrival Camp, Students waiting for the first meeting with their host families

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Arrival Camp


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12 1. Mario Panelli from Italy 2. Lili TĂźnde KertĂŠsz from Hungary 3. Camilla Soldatini from Italy 4. Suwatsara Donkhunthod from Thailand 5. Pottakorn Kaoudom from Thailand 6. Passwit Pengsiri from Thailand 7. Hathaipat Songsangyos from Thailand 8. Pattharaporn Chatthanavej from Thailand 9. Rinrada Haruethaiphun from Thailand 10. Ilaria Da Rin Bettina from Italy 11. Lara Galletta from Italy 12. Ary Cardoso Peixoto Junior from Brazil First moments with host families in the end of the Arrival Camp.

Latvian families are closed units but if they decide to host an exchange student and become a host \ family for them, they will try to do their best to make you feel you are home.

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1. Mahory Cardenas Islas from Mexico 2. Akiko Abe from Japan 3. Sophie Frohn from Germany 4. Martina Ciulla from Italy 5. Laura Giat from France

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Post-Arrival Camp 1 .

The second camp where the students . participate during the year. Time for deeper conversations about what did they learn about themselves, their home and host cultures and what adaptation issues they may be facing or will soon face.

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1. Halloween party in 80’ style organized by volunteers 2. Group of exchange students

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3. (from left to right) Rinrada Haruethaiphun from Thailand; Chadapa Boonman from Thailand; Pottakorn Kaoudom from Thailand; Hathaipat Songsangyos from Thailand; Martina Ciulla from Italy; Sophie Frohn from Germany; Tereza TetourovĂĄ from Czech Republic; Silvio Gaio from Italy; Pattharaporn Chatthanavej from Thailand Group of students practicing Thai traditional dance

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4. ( from left to right) Thamonwan Sangkahakun; Pottakorn Kaoudom; Hathaipat Songsangyos; Rinrada Haruethaiphun; Suwatsara Donkhunthod; Chadapa Boonman; Pattharaporn Chatthanavej; Suppanut Damrongrak; Passwit Pengsiri

6 from Thailand represent their country Students


On 11th November every year, Latvia lights up numerous candles to commemorate the Latvian army's victory over the West Russian Volunteer Army, on this day Latvia honours Latvian Freedom Fighters.

The day, Lāčplēša Day was named after the Latvian epic hero Lāčplēsis who had bear ears and strength; he has become a symbol of heroism and devotion to the state.

18 November is the Independence Day of Latvia — even though there were no borders set, a group of dedicated nationalists proclaimed an independent Latvian state on this day in 1918. This year the country celebrates it’s 100 Birthday.

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1. (From left to right) Amelia Denisa Mihalca from Italy; Thamonwan Sangkahakun from Thailand; Mario Panelli from Italy; Chadapa Boonman from Thailand; Lara Galletta from Italy; Pattharaporn Chatthanavej from Thailand; Suwatsara Donkhunthod from Thailand

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Students receiving their Christmas gifts

Students in their new AFS Latvia T-Shirt

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2. (From left to right) 1. Liliane Vitoria Alves Farherr from Italy; Camilla Soldatini from Italy; Emili Donini from Italy; Martina Ciulla from Italy; Ilaria Da Rin Bettina from Italy; Amelia Denisa Mihalca from Italy; Lara Galletta from Italy; Luca Costantin from Italy; Mario Panelli from Italy

Christmas party

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In every December AFS Latvia organizes a Christmas party for the exchange students, host families and volunteers.

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3. (From left to right) Pannaras Sarnsap from Thailand; Pottakorn Kaoudom from Thailand; Passwit Pengsiri from Thailand 4. Luca Costantin from Italy; Amelia Denisa Mihalca from Italy; Lara Galletta from Italy; Mario Panelli from Italy 5. Chadapa Boonman from Thailand; Thamonwan Sangkahakun from Thailand

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6. Passwit Pengsiri from Thailand; Suppanut Damrongrak from Thailand

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Group photo of students and volunteers

1. Volunteers showing the camp rules 2. (From left to right) Silvio Gaio from Italy; Martina Ciulla from Italy; Rinrada Haruethaiphun from Thailand; Lara Galletta from Italy; Mario Panelli from Italy; Amelia Denisa Mihalca from Italy; Students and volunteers in the snow

Happy group

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During the year AFS Latvia offers several excursions for the students to every region of Latvia and also to the neighbor countries to explore the traditions and culture more. Group in Latgale region

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Cultural excursions 1. Akiko Abe from Japan 2. (From left to right) Hathaipat Songsangyos from Thailand; Thamonwan Sangkahakun from Thailand; Suwatsara Donkhunthod from Thailand; Amazed by the view in Ventspils 3. Passwit Pengsiri from Thailand, Suppanut Damrongrak from Thailand; tasting traditional sklandu rausis 4. Amelia Denisa Mihalca from Italy; Lara Galletta from Italy; Passwit Pengsiri from Thailand; Suppanut Damrongrak from Thailand; Luca Costantin from Italy; On the coast of Ventspils

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Group in Tallinn, Estonia

5. (From left to right) Lara Galletta from Italy; Luca Costantin from Italy; Mario Panelli from Italy; Emili Donini from Italy; Martina Ciulla from Italy; Ilaria Da Rin Bettina from Italy; Cruise in Ventspils

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6. Mahory Cardenas Islas from Mexico; exploring work with clay 7. Group in Krakow, Poland

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Latvians call the Easter period „Lieldienas� - "The Great Day", "Great Days� People colour Easter eggs, take part in traditional swinging and other activities. Many families still boil and eat their own home coloured eggs at Easter. Awaiting Easter, eggs were coloured with onion skins, rye shoots, chamomile, or hay cuttings and decorated with scratched designs. Eggs are given for swinging, and eggs are knocked together to see which one survives cracking, as according to belief, the one whose egg shell was strongest, will live longer.

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1. Handmade painted eggs in Latvian and Hungarian style 2. Amelia Denisa Mihalca from Italy 3. Akiko Abe from Japan

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8 . 1. Sophie Frohn from Germany; 2. Lili TĂźnde KertĂŠsz from Hungary; 3. Suwatsara Donkhunthod from Thailand; 4. Pottakorn Kaoudom from Thailand; 5. Passwit Pengsiri from Thailand; 6. Ilaria Da Rin Bettina from Italy; 7. Akiko Abe from Japan; 8. Luca Costantin from Italy; 9. Martina Ciulla from Italy; 10. Ary Cardoso Peixoto Junior from Brazil 11. Group photo of the End of Stay Camp in Riga together with host families

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1. Pottakorn Kaoudom from Thailand teaching thai dance to Lok Hei Chan from Hong Kong; 2. Lili TĂźnde KertĂŠsz from Hungary & Mario Panelli from Italy with Hungarian flag 3. Sophie Frohn from Germany; Pottakorn Kaoudom from Thailand; Suppanut Damrongrak from Thailand; Passwit Pengsiri & Pannaras Sarnsap from Thailand

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Group of students and hosting team


Latvia is one of the few European countries where still today, just like hundreds of years ago, a celebration of the summer solstice is held. The shortest night of the year – from June 23 to 24, is spent in front of bonfires that burn bright until sunrise, singing Ligothemed folk songs. Women and girls wear a crown of flowers on their heads, while men wear a crown of oak leaves.

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1. Ilaria Da Rin Bettina from Italypreparing flower crowns for the evening celebration 2. Ilaria Da Rin Bettina from Italy 3. Amelia Denisa Mihalca & Mario Panelli from Italy

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Every five years, for one week. This is the time frame for the main event in Latvian cultural life - the Nationwide Latvian Song and Dance Festival. It involves hundreds of choirs and folk dance groups, entrancing thousands in the audience. The Festival has earned high honour internationally, being included on the UNESCO Oral History and Non-material Cultural Heritage List. The festivities bring together more than 40 000 participants to Riga - singers, dancers, wind orchestra musicians, folklore groups, amateur theatres, studios of applied and fine arts, and others. The festival features a number of various concerts and lasts for a whole week. Those exchange students who joined to dance groups or choires in the beginning of their exchange, had the opportunity to participatein the festival with their organization.

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3 1. Akiko Abe from Japan with ladies from her choir 2. Camilla Soldatini from Italy 3. Runa Matsuyama from Japan 4. Camilla Soldatini from Italy 5. Runa Matsuyama from Japan and her choir 6. Akiko Abe from Japan

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Introduction of Latvia Latvia is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since its independence, Latvia has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, and Belarus, as well as sharing a maritime border with Sweden. Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2. The country has a temperate seasonal climate. Latvia has the fifth highest proportion of land covered by forests in the European Union. Most of the country is composed of fertile lowland plains and moderate hills. A tapestry of sea, lakes and woods, Latvia is best described as a vast unspoilt parkland with just one real city – its cosmopolitan capital, Rčga. The country might be small, but the amount of personal space it provides is enormous. You can always secure a chunk of pristine nature all for yourself, be it for trekking, cycling or dreaming away on a white-sand beach amid pine-covered dunes. Having been invaded by every regional power, Latvia has more cultural layers and a less homogenous population than its neighbours.

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MAGNETIC LATVIA Latvian people Latvians are Latvia‘s original inhabitants, having arrived to the location at least 4000 years ago. They speak their own Latvian language which (together with Lithuanian) is part of the Baltic Group. Latvians might seem to have a moderate northern temperament, but only until the moment you see them talking about sports, during Midsummer or when they start to sing. You are very likely to find some dill in almost any food cooked at a Latvian home and you might discover that “lauki” (literally – countryside, but usually meaning a countryside house) is something that every Latvian has or is longing for. Though a sparkling sense of humour is a widespread quality among Latvians, there are several things which Latvians take seriously. The Latvian language is dear to a Latvian, and history is also very important. With independence regained just over 20 years ago, it is naturally cherished. Symbols which are best left untouched are the Latvian flag, the Monument of Freedom and the national anthem. Latvians don’t joke about them: you will not find humorous merchandise featuring these symbols; they are respected in a good oldfashioned manner. Latvians know the value of freedom.

Latvian family Average Latvian families consist of parents and kids. The grandparents live in different household. In Latvia it is possible to live in countryside without any neighbours and that is the dream of many latvians. What is common in almost every family is the love for spending time outdoor hiking, gardening, biking, collecting mushrooms & berries. Latvians call themselves “children of the nature”. What we also have to mention here is the “pirts”- sauna traditions. Similar to Finland here almost every people in countryside owns a sauna in the garden maybe even with a small lake next to it. By the traditions first you hit

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yourself with birch tree branches inside the sauna and then run outside and jump to the lake or to the snow. Latvia is rather neatly divided into two large groups: the indigenous Latvians, who make 62,1% percent of population, and the Russian native speakers, who make up 37,2%.

Religions In Latvia Most Latvians are light-haired and genetically closest to Lithuanians, Estonians and Finns. Lutheranism is their most popular faith. The eastern fifth of Latvian nation is known as Latgalians; they follow Catholicism and speak a unique Latgalian dialect.

Education in Latvia There are 4 type of secondary schools in Latvia. General secondary schools, gymnasiums, vocational secondary schools and vocational gymnasiums. One school year consist of 35 weeks, it starts in September and ends in May. 8:30-15:00 is the time usually students stay in school every weekday from Monday to Fridays.

Languages in Latvia While Latvian is the only official language and the only one you will notice on most signs, Latvia is effectively a bilingual country, with a third of its population speaking Russian. The Russian language is spoken natively by some 37% of Latvia’s population, most of them in the cities and Latgale.

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“In the time that I was in Latvia, I lived with my host family that had 5 members. They are nice and warm. Being exchange student there was such an amazing experience. Everyday was very precious and unforgettable. I'm so proud and happy that I was an exchange student in Latvia.” - hosted Participant in Year Program “It was a series of unexpected events from the first to the last day. It passed in a second, though it was hard. And as hard as it was, I would do it all again. The amount of growth, experience and happiness I gained are impossible to express through words. The only advice I can give is that you have to see for yourself. Give, risk, live!” - hosted Participant in Year Program “That moment when I saw them, my heart was in my throat, I couldn’t believe they were gonna be my family! The day we met, was my hostmum’s birthday, and all the time she kept saying that I was for that year, the best gift, that the long-awaited moment was happening. They bought me flowers, when I was not in the mood, they gave me responsibilities, because they trusted me, they gave me love, as I was their daughter and sister!” - hosted Participant in Year Program “I’m really glad to be a exchange student in Latvia, It’s one of the most special experience in my life. I came here by knowing nearly nothing about Latvia. But than I had my host family, they taught me a lot of things about the culture. Other things to mention which made my exchange year so memorable is other exchange students, AFS Latvia and volunteers are so kind to be friend with! I enjoy time I spend with all these people!” - hosted Participant in Year Program

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Our mission AFS prepares and activates future leaders, global citizens and changemakers with essential 21stcentury intercultural skills to engage, lead and collaborate effectively in different cultural settings. Our international exchange, study abroad and volunteer programs are supported by research-based intercultural learning journeys facilitated by trained AFS volunteers and staff.

Designed by: Boglarka Kovacs Learn more about AFS Latvia in www.afs.lv

facebook.com/afslatvia youtube.com/afslatvia instagram.com/afslatvia twitter.com/afslatvia

Blaumaņa iela 38/40, Rčga, LV-1011, Latvija +371 67280646 info.latvija@afs.org

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