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My name is Alex Hubschmidt and this summer, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the “Back to Our Roots!” program in Estonia. As an Estonian-American with dual citizenship, I am constantly searching for opportunities to connect with a heritage that is so important to me and many of my Estonian friends.


This program, which lasted from August 13th to the 24th, is funded mainly by the Estonian Ministry of Culture and is directed at young adults ages 18 through 24. The exchange brings together 20 young people living abroad and 10 native Estonians to learn about their “roots”, as well as discover many of the developing opportunities Estonia can provide, from University Master’s scholarships to job networking.


This was truly an international experience. I had roommates from Mexico, Australia, England and Ukraine. I built friendships with others from Canada, Chile, and New Zealand.


Some had been to Estonia multiple times, while others had never even left their own country before. While this was my fourth time in Estonia, “Back to Our Roots” still surprised me with the activities it provided. Over the course of 11 days, I had the chance to visit the new Estonian history museum in Tartu, go canoeing, learn rahvatants, see president Kersti Kaljulaid, language lessons, and eat (sometimes even make!) local dishes. I was taken from Tallinn to Lahemaa National Park to Tartu and back – I think I saw more of Estonia in this short timespan than I ever have before!


But tradition was not the only part of the exchange. As the name “Back to Our Roots” suggests, the program was designed partially with the intention to  encourage the next generation of Estonians to return home. For example, we were taken to new and innovative startups like TransferWise – a money exchange company based in Estonia and founded by one of the former creators of Skype. Additionally, we also met with representatives from the University of Tallinn and University of Tartu to learn about their numerous academic opportunities, especially for those looking to earn their master’s or doctorate degrees.


In the end, I could not think of a better way to end my summer. I now have connections that are truly all around the world, all connected by Estonia. After this experience, I certainly feel closer to my heritage and a country that can sometimes feel so far away.


If you or someone you know would be interested in this exchange, please visit for more information. Accommodation, food, and transport are all covered. Travel reimbursement is available for anyone who applies, so please do not hesitate! If you have any more direct questions, Heleri Alles, director of “Back to Our Roots!” would be happy to answer them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Otherwise, you can find us on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #rahvuskaaslased.


Alex Hubschmidt


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