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Volunteering at the Hermitage

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This post is an excerpt from ‘From Beans to Beets,’ an excellent blog by Sharon who studied with us in St. Petersburg in spring ’11. There she had the opportunity to volunteer at one of the most prestigious museums in the world!

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As I mentioned before, I’ve been volunteering at the Hermitage, which is the main museum here. Last time I greeted people at the entrance, which means I definitely have “hello” and “please take your coat to the cloak room it is required” down. Although that was fun, and I got a lot of language practice, this past Tuesday was even better because they let us go to the Archaeology Department. Even getting there is an amazing experience. You enter the museum feeling special with your volunteer access badge, which lets you, among other things, cut in line, enter where no one else can, and give off the impression that you know what you are doing.

We then were introduced to the staff and got situated at our work bench. They then put a bunch of pottery fragments in front of us, gave us some instructions, and left us on our own. We couldn’t believe that they were giving student volunteers such liberties with such important archaeological specimens. We felt so professional and quite special to be able to work with pieces from the Hermitage!  When we finally did rip ourselves away (it is finals week), we went to find the lady who worked there to tell her we were leaving. She was in a room full of tools made from stone, bone, and wood. We spent about half an hour drilling her with questions about all the tools, where they were found, how old they are (really old!), what they were used for, etc. She was very nice and answered all our questions. She also let us hold/touch/inspect anything we wanted, which was amazing! I was so happy and felt so fortunate to have the opportunity to gain the kind of archaeological experience that some students dream of. I mean, how cool is it to say that you handled and catalogued specimens from the Hermitage museum?! We are going back as soon as we can. I wish I had started earlier!

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Visit our website to find out more about study abroad and check out the AIFS St. Petersburg Facebook page to see photos of student volunteering activities.

Where else can you volunteer? Check out the Volunteering section of our website.

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