Over 150 Participants from Around the World Discussed Baltic Studies Worldwide

June 1, 2023

This spring, Kaunas Magnus University hosted over 150 participants—lecturers, researchers and students from Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Hungary, India, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the United States of America, Georgia, Switzerland, Ukraine—to a discussion on Baltic studies in the contemporary world, the challenges it is facing and the prospects for its future.

In the conference, organised by VMU together with its partners Vilnius University and the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore, Dr Dalia Cidzikaitė, a researcher from the National Library of Lithuania, presented a paper “BALSSI: A TwentyFive-Year Long Baltic Summer in North America.” The Baltic Studies Summer Institute (BALSSI), founded in 1994 in the United States, differs in many ways from the Baltic Studies centres currently operating worldwide.

BALSSI, which travels to a different institution of higher education in the US every two-four years, offers intensive courses in Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian to students ranging in age from junior high school to the nineties. During the intensive eight-week course, students complete two academic semesters. In addition to learning one of the three languages, the students learn about the culture and history of the three Baltic States.

BALSSI is a collaborative project between the Baltic Language Consortium and the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS), focusing on studying the three Baltic countries in North America. Over twenty-five years, BALSSI has been hosted by a number of American colleges, such as the University of Washington, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the University of Iowa. Over 200 students took BALSSI courses in Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian.