Experiencing Russian Culture Through the Lens of an Internship

Authored by:
Della H.

Living in Moscow for the past two months has been thrilling.  One of my favorite aspects of this experience has been my internship at the American Center which is a branch of the US Embassy in Moscow. While it may not initially seem thrilling to be working at an internship every Friday for six to seven hours, this has truly been one of the best parts of my time in Moscow.  I knew I wanted to do an internship when I applied for this program, but I did not anticipate what I would gain from an internship beyond professional development.  Rather, through my internship I have also slowly but surely become a part of a community outside of MGIMO, the university where I study.  By working at the AMC, I have steadily been integrating myself into the culture of Moscow by making new friends and forming strong connections outside of MGIMO.

So, what do I do every Friday at the American Center?  My internship requires me to research information and condense it into a digestible form that the Russian public can enjoy.  This is my fancy way of saying that I have been doing a lot of research and creating/giving many presentations.  Most of my presentations so far have been to Russian adults or college and high school students who frequent the AMC.  I have been giving hour-long presentations about American History to this crowd every other Friday, and I find this task very fulfilling.  Outside of the American History Club however, I recently created and led an event for a group of 11-year-old students at a Russian school.  Both types of presentations are challenging and rewarding in their own way, but my trip to the school on April 5th was one of the most informative experiences of my time in Moscow.

When I arrived at the school with Viola, my boss at the American Center, I was surprised to see the differences between American schools and this school in Moscow.  The building had intense security and the kids wore unfamiliar uniforms, but I could feel that despite the apparent differences this was still a place with caring teachers and eager students.  The day got started when Viola and I were led to a conference room where a small feast-like spread was set up for us. Viola informed me that this was a common Russian way of greeting guests and I felt honored to have that experience.  After the presentation, which went well and allowed me to connect with Russian school kids, we went back to the same small feast-like set up and had to eat more or else we would appear rude to our hosts. The whole situation was unfamiliar but charming and I could see how excited the school was to have a native English speaker who could work with the kids.

I know that without my internship at the American Center I would never have had the chance to see this side of Russian life and I am so thankful to have been a part of that event where I could witness a deeper side of Russia beyond the architecture and typical sights. I have even been invited back to participate in more English events with the students and I feel that I am slowly making connections with native Russians, all thanks to my internship.  Even without the chance to go visit the school, I have made a group of new Russian friends just at the American Center, and there has been a small crowd of people who show up to all my presentations.  Ultimately, I am so glad I chose to do this internship because while I originally thought it would limit my time exploring Russian culture, it has brought me closer to understanding it.

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