IT’s MOre than a UNIVERSITY — IT’s MOre than a slogan

When you read this phrase for the first time, you may think that it’s a simple catchphrase to convince people to go to ITMO University. Actually, once you step in any ITMO building and talk to someone, you immediately understand that it’s not the case.

Photo courtesy of the author

About one year ago, I made a very important decision: I decided to apply for an exchange semester in Russia. For my whole life, I had been dreaming of visiting a "cold" country and getting in contact with new cultures which were different from mine.

When I knew that I had got the scholarship, I was really excited but scared at the same time, not only because I didn’t know if I could come to Russia because of Covid-19, but also because I had never studied Russian before, so I was afraid that it would be too hard for me to deal with all the bureaucracy.

Luckily, in August, ITMO’s International Office told me that I had been assigned a Buddy who would help me with all the documents required by the university.

Since my buddies were busy the day of my arrival, another buddy offered to come to pick me up at the airport. I really appreciated it, because he picked me up and took me to the hotel that was going to be my home for some months.

That same night, after unpacking everything, he and another buddy took me and some other exchange students on a walk to visit the city.

For the first few days, the other Italian student and I met our buddies who helped us deal with the documents required by the university while visiting St. Petersburg for the second time.

Photo courtesy of the author
Photo courtesy of the author

On the first day of the semester, during the orientation meeting, I met the other exchange students who were already in St. Petersburg.

During this meeting, people working at ITMO told us everything we needed to know about the university, the class schedule and they introduced us to one of the best things at ITMO: the Buddy System.

Buddy system

Buddy system is a project that provides interaction between international and Russian students. Within the framework of the program, Russian "buddy" students are assigned to international exchange students, and together with them, they do a lot of different activities.

I think that the buddy system is one of the best things at ITMO University because, apart from organizing many different activities, it helps you meet other international students and Russian people who are ready to know everything about your country.

In fact, although I’m usually really shy, thanks to the Buddy System, I was able to make a lot of new friends!

The first activity we participated in was the visit to the Museum of Optics, a fascinating museum where you can learn more about the magical properties of light and the world of optical illusions. The most interesting thing is that the tours are guided by ITMO students who are really passionate about what they study, and who are able to convey their passion for the world of optics to visitors.

Photo courtesy of the author
Photo courtesy of the author

After the museum tour, we went for a walk all together, guided by two buddies who told us a lot of peculiar stories about some of the monuments in the city and about the city itself.

The day after the visit to the museum, we had a city quest across the center of St. Petersburg: we were divided into three different teams, and we had to repeat movie scenes and take a picture of every location.

It was really fun at first because we could visit new places in the city, and secondly because we could meet other buddies and bond with them. And, most importantly, our team won!

After that, we had the first Nationality Night, about Russia. Every week, the buddies organized a different Nationality Night, where people from that specific country could make a presentation about their country, its history, its traditions, etc. and make some typical food.

Thanks to the nationality nights, I could learn a lot about other countries, some of which are very close to Italy (like France, Germany) others very far (Russia, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Japan).

Nationality nights were not the last activity the buddies organized! They organized a sightseeing and canal tour to let us learn as much as possible about this beautiful city.

Recently, we had a short trip to Yagodnoe, ITMO University’s outdoor sports and leisure camp, which is situated by the beautiful Lake Berestovoye. There, we did a team quest, we played board games and card games, we had a barbecue, followed by a little party.

All these activities, carefully organized by the buddies, gave us the possibility to enjoy the region’s beautiful nature while creating new wonderful memories.

Photo courtesy of the author
Photo courtesy of the author

Furthermore, coming from the Southern part of Italy, never have I ever experienced below-zero temperatures, but in Yagodnoe I experienced the "Russian cold" for the first time!

But the thing I love the most about ITMO University is that its slogan, "IT's MOre than University" is actually true: everyone at ITMO always tries to make everyone else feel at home, as if they were all part of a big family. No matter where you come from, and whatever your story, at ITMO University, you will always find someone ready to talk to you.

If you have any problem, everyone, students, buddies, ITMO staff, will always try and find a way to help you. And I think that this is simply fantastic!

In conclusion, I can say that this experience has been perfect so far. I have never met such great people from every part of the world, with so many different ideas. Each of them taught me something and made me live unforgettable moments.

Exchange student from Italy