On the Idea, History and Purpose of the Baltic International Summer School

Mr.Richard Baerug is among the founders of Vidzeme University and one of the authors of Baltic International Summer School.

How did you come up with the idea about the summer school?

Certainly, the idea about the summer school was linked to the fact that many universities in Europe had a comprehensive summer school product, but except for some narrow language courses, this product was absent in the three Baltic states. So it gave a new institution like Vidzeme an opportunity to position itself on the international arena that could have a good spillover effect and create additional interests among international students for our international programs as such. We adopted a summer school that I partly knew, the Oslo International Summer School as the role model, also informed the people I knew there about the fact that they had got a little brother in the Baltics. For every year, though, we developed more and more our own profile.

Was it easy to organize the very first Baltic International Summer School?
Looking back, people tend to remember the easy parts. And the enthusiasm of students at Vidzeme for taking part in the development and preparations for the summer school was extraordinary positive. So it was not difficult, even though it certainly demanded a lot of hard work. Even though some people were a little bit sceptical in the beginning, most people welcomed the idea. The ministry of education and science was very positive and supportive by giving scholarships, as also did the Soros foundation, ALJA and others. The idea embraced the desire among many Balts to reduce the lack of information and knowledge among foreigners, and in particular possible future opinion makers, about the Baltic world. Also the fact that the summer school from the very beginning made a little, but pleasant profit for the university, also helped create a positive attitude to the summer school on a local level.

Approximately how many participants were in the first summer school?
The first Baltic International Summer School in 1999 gathered 45 participants from 10 different countries; Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine and the United States.

Have you ever taken part in any other summer school as a participant?
No, but I always felt that the participants from abroad and the local organisers after some hours formed a big and generous family that continously had an extremely good time for 3 weeks. So being one of the organisers, I have almost always felt that I was also a participant in a truly international family project.

Do you think it is better that summer school has a specific topic now every year?
There are always many ways to Rome. I think the topic-driven summer school approach is a good idea. At the same time I think there is still a very underdeveloped and underestimated market out there for a summer school with a broader Baltic topic, given it is presented, marketed and run in a professional way.

Do you think the summer school has developed as you thought?
It makes me happy that the Baltic International Summer School is still alive! I did not try to have any set and categoric future thoughts about the summer school when I left Vidzeme in 2003. It is like a parent has to realise that a child grows up and wants to develop in its own ways, not the way a parent might prefer. For the parent it is most important that the child is happy, alive and developing.

What is your wish to the summer school in its 10th anniversary?
Let us hope that in the future not we, but our next generations will be able to celebrate the anniversaries of a joy-giving and understanding-making Baltic International Summer school with both one and two more zeros added.
Foto: Diena/Kristaps Kalns