• Intern in Russia Testimonial – Interview with Bertrand Fonteyn

    Bertrand Fonteyn /

    Best Programs participant in our: 
    Intern in Russia program. 

    Bertrand is from Belgium, where he studied Art History and Slavic Languages. He has worked in Thailand as an English teacher, in China as an English teacher (university level), and in Kazakhstan as an English and French teacher (university level). Bertrand is currently working in Serbia as a cultural attaché.

    My Intern in Russia experience

    What inspired you to go abroad?

    I always wanted to have an international career.

    Why did you choose Best Programs?

    It was recommended to me by a paired organization based in my country (Belgium).

    What was your favorite part about St. Petersburg?

    Living in the very heart of SPB was a lifetime opportunity I'm glad I was able to experience.

    Pushkin House in St. Petersburg

    Pushkin House in St. Petersburg

    What made your intern in Russia experience unique?

    Saint Petersburg is a beautiful city full of culture everywhere you look.

    How was the local staff support throughout your program?

    Excellent! Anna was very supportive in all aspects from the first day to the very end of my stay.

    What's one thing you wish you´d done differently?

    That's a hard one really. I was truly very happy with all aspects of my experience in SPB.

    Describe a typical day in the life of your Intern in Russia program.

    I’d walk to the job in the morning through the beautiful SPB center (amazing churches, canals, breathtaking buildings). I would then spend the morning at work - I was doing an internship at the SPB Chamber of Commerce. I would eat lunch out.

    Afternoons were varied: either I was invited to some events organized by the Chamber, or I had it free with recommendations about things to visit in order to broaden my cultural experience. Sometimes I went back to the office when we had a busy period.

    At the end of the day, I’d walk back home, and have a drink on the way. Evenings were very often spent out as there is always plenty of things to do in SPB, whether it's sport, cultural events, parties, theater, evening walks.

    What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

    Museums, theater (dirt cheap), walks in and around the city, and small one-day trips nearby.

    What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

    A big apartment in which I had my own room. It was quite nice, well taken care of, and mostly super central (300 meters from the Hermitage Museum).

    What is one thing every participant should know before signing up for the program?

    I´d definitely recommend knowing at least a bit of Russian before going there. Also, mind the SPB weather if you go in winter; it's so humid that you feel your bones are freezing. Plus, you´ll have black days (and white nights in summer, which can also be quite confusing).

    Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

    The point is that I'm not at home, I have the international career I always wanted to have and I believe the BEST Programs´ internship helped it happen.

    Would you recommend Best Programs to others? Why?

    Definitely, for different reasons. There was great support from the staff with visas, accommodation, airport pickup, etc. There are also a wide choice of internships, depending on your interests. And lastly, you have the possibility to have some Russian high level courses at the beginning of your stay - great help!

    Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg

    The Hermitage Museum view from the river

    What was the hardest part about interning abroad?

    Adapting to the rhythm of St Petersburg, at work and in general. The people there are quite fast-paced and it was a challenge to get used to.

    What surprised you most about Russia?

    The interpersonal communication. People can be quite straightforward, I believe it’s partly due to their language itself (very short sentences that don’t bother with what we think is elementary politeness in English).

    What is one thing you wish you would have known before interning abroad in Russia?

    Maybe to have been briefed about the team where I was interning - that is, knowing who is who. Of course, it was explained to me when I joined the team, but at first glance, they all seemed to have a friendly, non-hierarchical relationship, which was a bit confusing - then again, it’s a cultural difference.

    If you could intern abroad again, where would you go?

    I’d be tempted by a location in Africa - that will be my next challenge.

    What do you feel the biggest benefit of interning abroad is?

    It’s definitely the ability to integrate a culturally different working environment with all that this implies - communication, systems, and professional relationships.

    See here our Intern in Russia program!


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