Amanda Hays

“Summer in the Land of the Firebird: An Internship at the Hermitage”

In Summer of 2019, I received a Theory to Practice Grant to go to St. Petersburg, Russia from June 21st to July 27th. The purpose of the grant was to complete an internship at the Hermitage State Museum (the second largest art museum in the world), take Russian language classes, and perform some research assistance for Dr. Merkel (Associate Professor of Comparative Literature). 

I went through the internship program at EDUCA Russian Language School. They set up the internship, my host family living arrangements, meal plan, language classes, and cultural excursions. I got started at the internship right away, and was able to do many things during my month-long stay. On my first day, I was immediately placed into a group to work on a presentation project that was to justify a new temporary exhibition. The possible exhibition would be designed to highlight the ancient city of Carthage. I also took part in the annual summer Gala, an elaborate event held for the museum donors. Sometimes I would leave the office and direct tourists to where they needed to go and supplied them with information about the museum. In addition, I would edit papers that were translated from Russian to English. When not in the office, I did off-site work in other locations in and outside of St. Petersburg. I traveled with other interns to the neighboring city of Peterhof to help manage a historical event. At the end of the internship, I went to Alexander Nevsky Lavra Monastery, a monastery established in St. Petersburg in 1713, to help clean the graveyards and promote historic awareness. I got much accomplished during the internship and had a lot of fun along the way!

While doing the internship, I also took Russian language courses. Because my internship took up most of my time during the week, I was only able to take private lessons once a week for three hours (approximately equivalent to fifteen lessons). This greatly boosted my language skills because previously I was unable to take formal Russian language classes. My reading and writing skills were the fastest to progress. Even though I wish I were further in my studies, the classes taught me where I need to work the hardest in order to improve. I have kept all my notes, homework, and books from the class so I can continue my studies while at school.

Lastly, I was able to take some photos for Dr. Merkel. I went to the Russian Ethnography Museum to view many traditional Russian costumes from all over the country. There were also clothes and weavings from neighboring countries. I made a photograph collection for Dr. Merkel to help her with her research.  

I had a great time living in St. Petersburg! This was my second time visiting, but this extended stay gave me a more in-depth look at everyday Russian culture. I stayed with a wonderful host family on the outskirts of the city. I could walk to the metro station and be in the city within 45 mins. The music in the streets, colorful cafés, rich history, and enthusiasm for the arts were wonderful to experience. The people there were very friendly and helped me when I had a hard time with translations. My favorite excursion was going to see the ballet, La Bayadère, at the famous Mariinsky theater (something I have wanted to do since I was a little girl)! I was able to visit other museums. Many of these museums were gorgeous, as they were housed in former palaces sprinkled throughout the city. I was even lucky enough to see Moscow for the first time. After taking the bullet train (which got me there in three hours instead of eight), I spend two days with a friend and got to explore Russia's capital. The people, food, and art of Russia were amazing, and I feel fortunate to have been able to travel while I was there.

This grant provided an absolutely wonderful experience! I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to fulfill this project. I am also thankful to have worked at OWU's Brant Museum of Zoology, because the skills I learned there helped me get the internship at the Hermitage. Having experience working at the second largest art museum in the world not only improves my skills for my future career, but also helps my resume stand out to potential graduate schools and jobs. At the internship, I worked at the Hermitage for 35 hours every week, between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day. This gave me a feel of what it was like to work at an established museum. The other volunteers and interns at the Hermitage came from all over the world, and spoke all sorts of languages, but still worked together as a cohesive team. I was welcomed into the group when I first arrived, and found it easy to work with everyone on different projects. Most of the interns happened to be French, so I was able to practice both my French and Russian skills with them. It was great to work in the office, in the museum, and at off-site locations throughout the month. Though I was only there for a month, I felt as if I got to try many different things and gain a lot of experience in the museum field.