Internship in Russia's Cultural Capital

Boris Kowalski

Since the beginning of September, after finishing my research internship at Frank Creations, I have been working as an intern at the Consulate General of The Netherlands in St. Petersburg. Being the former tsarist capital of the Russian Empire and the current cultural capital of Russia, St. Petersburg is an extremely inspiring and interesting city to live and work. Furthermore, the challenges and complexities of the current diplomatic relations between The Netherlands and Russia make this internship an insightful and valuable experience. In this update, I will briefly outline both the professional and social parts of my internship experience.

To start with, the work at the Consulate General has proven to be very informative. Although there is more than enough attention for relations with Russia in the media, not always positive to say the least, the work of the Consulate General shows that there is much more to the diplomatic relations between The Netherlands and Russia than one can find in the media. The Consulate General focuses on four core areas: economics, culture, human rights and consular support. Since the Consulate General is a relatively small representation, my task as an intern is to support every department where needed. This is an interesting job, since it offers the possibility to see the work of the Consulate General in very different sectors. Therefore the internship shows the large amount of activities and partners that the Consulate General engages with. The headlines in the news cannot possibly capture the wide array of societal, cultural, academic and economic activities that go on despite the tense political relationship between Russia and The Netherlands. The internship has therefore helped me to get a broader picture of developments within Russia and the Dutch involvement in these developments.

The social life in St. Petersburg is as much, if not even more, interesting. As the former tsarist capital, forged just over 300 years ago by Peter the Great from the dreary swamplands here, the city shows its impressive history on every corner of the street. The city was designed to be glorious and the museums, theatres and palaces represent just that. For anyone interested in Russian history, St. Petersburg is the place to be. But besides its old glory, St. Petersburg also offers a remarkable combination of modern bars and restaurants, which are often hidden within the historic buildings in the city centre. The city is vibrant and young, also with a surprisingly substantial Dutch community. Additionally, as has been assured to me by numerous cab drivers, the St. Petersburg locals are way friendlier than the “arrogant” Muscovites. While being here, one should also not forget to visit the surrounding cities, which are home to some of the most impressive tsarist palaces. St. Petersburg has so much to offer that my internship, which unfortunately only lasts three months, is by far not long enough to explore it all.

In short, I can absolutely recommend any student to spend some time abroad for an internship. It provides insights and experiences, which are impossible to get at university. It is also a nice opportunity to acquire new skills and use your existing knowledge in a professional context. It specifically helps to get a more concrete picture of what a profession really looks like, in this case diplomacy, and what aspects of it fit or do not fit your skills and ambitions. In my case, it is also a perfect opportunity to improve my Russian and get more familiar with the country. Russia is of course way more diverse than just the big cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow, so there is still more than enough to explore in the future.

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