Studying in St. Petersburg
Ohio Wesleyan Student Interns at World’s Second-Largest Art Museum
By Madison Bridger ’21
Name: Amanda Hays ’20
Hometown: Winthrop, Maine
Majors: History and Pre-law
OWU Connection Experience: “Summer in the Land of the Firebird,” a month-long, three-pronged project in St. Petersburg, Russia. The project was supported by an Ohio Wesleyan-funded Theory-to-Practice Grant, part of The OWU Connection.
For her project, Hays traveled to St. Petersburg to complete an internship in June and July at the Hermitage State Museum, the second-largest art museum in the world. She also completed coursework through the EDUCA Russian Language Center and took private lessons to improve her Russian language skills, and she conducted research at the Russian Ethnographic Museum for Ohio Wesleyan professor Stephanie Merkel, Ph.D. An associate professor of Comparative Literature, Merkel’s research focuses on Russian Romanticism and explores the intersection of poetry and fashion.
Interning at the Hermitage State Museum
“I got started 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.
“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 offsite work in other locations in and outside of St. Petersburg. I got much accomplished at the internship. ...
Integrating into the Team
“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 as well as jobs.
“At the internship, I worked 35 hours a week, and came in during the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. 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. It was good for me to interact with people my age who not only not from America, but also did not speak English as a first language. Most of the interns happened to be French, so I was able to practice both my French and Russian skills with them.”
Studying Russian in Russia
“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 (which equaled out to about 15 classes). … Even though I wish I was further in my studies, the classes taught me where I need to work the hardest in order to improve. ...
Language learning helped me both intellectually grow, and will help me in the future with careers pertaining to law. In law, it is very helpful to know more than one language, so you can communicate with and help more people.”
My Favorite Experience
“My favorite experience from the trip was going with other EDUCA students to the Scarlet Sails festival by the Neva River. Scarlet Sails is the biggest festival during the White Nights season in St. Petersburg (approximately late June to mid-July).
“The whole city turns out for it to see the 30-minute fireworks show and the famous Palace Bridge to open and reveal an old-fashioned sailing ship with bright red sails.
“It was wonderful to experience a traditional, fun cultural festival that has been going on since the 1960s.”
The Value of Study Away
“It’s important to have these kinds of experiences because it really broadens your horizons. It gives you insights into a culture different from your own, experience in a new language, and allows for social skills to grow as you make friends, connections, and find your way around the city or town where you are residing.”
My Plan after Graduation
“My plan for after graduation is to go immediately into law school. Part of the reason why I did this museum internship was to better understand museums so I have a base going into museum law.
“Ultimately, I want to get a law degree that lets me practice internationally and work with museums both in the United States and around the world with laws pertaining to cultural exchange.”
Why I Chose OWU
“Part of why I decided to attend OWU was because of their amazingly robust study abroad program. There is so much more that is offered than just a semester abroad in a few select places.
“In addition to studying abroad, I also joined for OWU’s outstanding History Department and program along with being a legacy myself.”
(Hays’ mother, Elise, graduated from Ohio Wesleyan in 1982 and her father, Richard, in 1983.)