Philipp Niessen

Philipp Niessen

AFP#14 | 2016 – 2017

Current place of employment:

European Climate Foundation


Director Industry & Innovation

Placement during fellowship:

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

The Alfa fellowship is a rare and unique opportunity to immerse oneself in Russian business, social and cultural life for a whole year. Before setting off to Russia, the fellowship offers a very attractive package of preparatory and language classes to help fellows settle and succeed in the new environment. In Russia, the Alfa Fellowship’s singular network of contacts greatly helps to secure work placements. A seminar, travel and again language training programme perfectly complement the experience.

I personally had always aimed to work once in Russia in my area of professional interest for some time. Russia is not isolated from the world economy, but yet, jobs for foreign experts are not common in Moscow with Russian organisations. There is also not really a culture of internships. The fellowship enabled me to fulfill the objective of not only gaining decent Russian language skills, but also of working in the country and gathering valuable cultural experiences.

Having completed the Alfa Fellowship a few years ago, I look more at my experiences from a long-term personal perspective. While the completion of the fellowship was not a clear advantage immediately after my return from abroad, I have seen many small benefits since which jointly make up a huge plus, both professionally and personally. Russia expertise, Russian language skills and cultural sensitivity are not required on a daily basis in my current professional position, working for a European philanthropic initiative on climate protection. However, it greatly helps occasionally with Russian counterparts, as well as with understanding, which is not equal to approving, non-EU discourses on societal topics, such as climate change.