Andres Tennus

Three rectors’ scholarship went to a student of the University of Tartu

At the university’s ceremony marking the anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, Henri Pokk, a master’s student of the University of Tartu, was announced the winner of the three rectors’ scholarship competition, which was held for the seventh time.

Henri has always been interested in what goes on in the neighbouring countries of Estonia, and he enjoys travelling in the Baltic countries. After upper secondary school, English was his only foreign language, but in the following years, he learned Russian independently. “Then I thought it would be exciting to get a taste of the Latvian language and, thanks to my interest and good teachers, I managed to reach the level needed for basic communication in less than a year,” said the winner.

At the University of Tartu, Henri started to study in the master’s curriculum “Conversion Master in IT”. To complete his studies, he still has to write a master’s thesis on the methods for assessing the accessibility of public transport. He decided to use the optional courses in the curriculum to improve his foreign language skills. “Besides Latvian, I also started to learn Lithuanian, which, compared to Latvian, proved more difficult in terms of both vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation,” said Henri. His proficiency in Latvian is now at a high enough level to work in a Latvian-speaking work environment, thus broadening his worldview and finding job opportunities in a country that is geographically and culturally close but linguistically distant.

According to the winner of the competition, there may seem to be few Latvians and Lithuanians in Estonia and nowhere to practise the language. However, he noted that their numbers in Estonia have grown considerably over the last decade. “In Tartu, there is a Latvian mixed choir, Ziemeļu Balsis, which participated in the Latvian song festival last summer. Now, several Lithuanians have joined the choir aiming to go to the Lithuanian song festival this summer,” said Henri.

Besides Henri Pokk, also Dovilė Gavelytė, a bachelor’s student of Lithuanian Philology at Vilnius University, made it to the final round.

The three rectors’ scholarship competition was launched by the rectors of the University of Tartu, the University of Latvia and Vilnius University in 2017. The competition aims to promote the teaching and learning of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian languages. The rectors award the scholarship in turn.

The next scholarship competition will be organised by the University of Latvia in the 2024/2025 academic year. The amount of the scholarship is 2000 euros, and the competition is open to all full-time students of the University of Tartu, the University of Latvia and Vilnius University who speak Estonian, Latvian or Lithuanian at C1 level and the other two languages at least at A2 level. More information about the competition is available on the website of the Institute of Foreign Languages and Cultures.

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