Latvia FAQ

Where is Latvia?
What are some basic facts about Latvia?
What's the history of Latvia?
What's Latvian culture like?
What is Latvian school like?
What do Latvians do for fun?
Can I talk to people who've exchange students in Latvia?
Where can I learn Latvian?

This is Europe:

This is Latvia:

Basic Facts:

The Occupation: German and Soviet-Occupied Latvia (1941-1991)

Latvian Culture:
Prāta Vētra (Brainstorm) - the most famous Latvian band. Here's two (well, three; one is the same song but in English) of their many, many songs. They sing mostly in Latvian, sometimes release an album with the same songs but in English, and sometimes in Russian. These are all from their 4th album.
School in Latvia
Latvian Life - School, Family, etc (AFS) (This is the program I'm going with; their literature on Latvia was pretty influential in my decision to go there.)
School in Latvia (from the YFU site. Note: I am not affiliated with YFU, but their country page has detailed info on Latvian schools.)

What do Latvians do for fun?

Where can I learn Latvian for free?
Byki - flash cards on steroids. It won't teach you grammar, but it's amazing for vocab.
Basic Latvian - an introductory college course from the University of Washington. Great site design. It's a lot of material, but if you're serious about studying, it's perfect.
italki - a language learning social networking site, where you can find native speakers of Latvian.
Latvian phrases - a list of useful phrases

Where can I talk to people who've been exchange students in Latvia?
The Cultures Shocked forum! Specifically, the Baltic States thread. There's an FAQ page there too with quotes from exchangers about food, host families, schools, etc. Don't worry, we're friendly. :)

How can I be an exchange student in Latvia?
There's a bunch of programs - Rotary, ASSE, YFU, etc., but I really can only recommend AFS. It's non-profit, one of the oldest in the world, and has branches everywhere. It's really well-known and trusted. It's fairly pricey, but so are most exchange programs, and they are extremely generous with scholarships. Even without demonstrated financial need, you can receive up to $1300. You have to put in the extra effort to apply for the Global Leaders scholarship, and there are some things you have to do if you receive it, but it's worth the effort. If you have any questions about AFS applications, scholarships, etc, don't be afraid to ask! I've been through it all. :)

The Latvian Institute also has more in depth/academic studies on... everything. They are amazing! If there's anything you think I should add, let me know. :)