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A city of culture and contrasts

Veronica Simmelink, intern, BA Art History, Radboud University Nijmegen.

It was special to do an internship in a metropolis and, through the NIP, to keep a small piece of the Netherlands with me

In October 2018 I had the opportunity to take the Russian Art History course at the Netherlands Institute in St Petersburg and I knew immediately that I wanted to come back - and sooner rather than later! In August of this year I arrived in St Petersburg again, this time not as a student, but as an intern, in high spirits and with a healthy dose of nerves. I had been to Russia before, the country where my roots lie, but I wondered what would it be like to really live and work there for three months?

It was an experience to never forget. My internship at NIP was versatile: every day was different. I have met so many new and interesting people, from Russian captains taking their Dutch law exam at the institute, to Dutch film directors who are in town for a film festival. It was special to do an internship in a metropolis abroad but, thanks to the NIP, to keep a small piece of the Netherlands with me. The host family where I stayed was great and I felt more like a member of their family than a lodge. They made extra kotlety for me for dinner, I got tips on the best way to prepare my own pelmeni (cooking it longer than recommended on the package, in water with black peppercorns and laurel) and almost every evening we discussed the news, domestic and foreign policy in front of the television.

And then, of course, the city itself, which I will be brief about: Saint Petersburg is in one word amazing.  A city of contrasts, culture and greatness. Saint Petersburg is a mix between east and west, where orthodox chapels can be found in the middle of Soviet residential areas, where South Korean make-up stores have found their place next to Finnish supermarkets and where everything is just a little larger than usual. You can feel the atmosphere of a big city in everything: a forty-minute walk for your weekly shopping becomes normal - and can take even longer because you gaze at all the beautiful facades of the buildings that you encounter along the way - and after a few weeks you get used to the huge crowds on Nevsky Prospekt and in the metro during peak hours.

There is so much to see that even three months is too short to discover everything about this beautiful city, and a little reluctantly I have now returned to the Netherlands. However, this is also a reason to return to St. Petersburg, a city that has since my arrival come to feel like a second home and has definitively confirmed my love for Russia and my own Russian culture.

To put it in the words of the legendary Viktor Tsoi of the rock group Kino:

" Я хотел бы остаться с тобой

Просто остаться с тобой. ’’

("I would like to stay with you, just to stay with you.")