My advice is that you need to be open-minded and have the disposition to get to know everything that you'll discover here. Of course, it is not easy at all. Being a foreigner in Russia is challenging yourself every day in many different ways, but it’s all worth it because you become a better version of yourself. Be patient, trust yourself, don't be afraid of failing and the most important part – enjoy every second of this experience.
Make sure you understand how the educational system here works – it’s very rewarding once you learn how to use it properly. Here, students don’t just learn about technologies, but also the small yet vital tricks of the trade that will help pave the way to success. Many are ambivalent about encountering a new system of education. Speaking from my own experience, I’ll say that all my professors always helped me when I struggled with something. Reach out, and you’ll always find help or advice.
Make as many friends as possible. If you want to learn the Russian language, it’s best to learn by making lots of friends. Knowing the Pashto languages helps me to have a better accent in Russian. The word “khorosho” in Russian means “good”. In Pashto it means “the king’s donkey”. And “how are you” (“Kak vashe della?”) sounds very similar to “the bed is broken”.
In addition to studying the language, I should have considered learning how to do chores properly, like cooking, sewing, sweeping, making laundry, etc. and it is not always about the money, but about the time that you spend looking for somebody to help you.
To succeed in research, look for a team. Find good people that you have the same research interests in. The key is to find a good supervisor. Also as an enthusiastic PhD student you can jump into the specifics of your research topic but it’s important to first gain a deep foundation of understanding of the whole field before delving into your narrower topic.
To have a great winter in St. Petersburg, I always check the weather app before I go outside – it’s a great tool that helps me get prepared to leave the house, always wearing a beanie, gloves, and a good coat. At the beginning of winter there is not much snow, but as the days pass you can see it all over the city, which is beautiful, but you should be careful walking outside, since a layer of ice and snow forms on the ground and the pavement can become slippery.
You should never give up and work hard, and also remember to always ask questions. Sometimes people think that if they ask questions they will look stupid but just remember that by asking something in class, you are probably helping 20 other students who had the same question and were too shy to ask. I ask a lot of questions because I want to understand and if you have a problem you have to face it, you can’t run away from it. You have to learn to fix problems because eventually you’ll face one and you’ll need to be ready. Never give up even if something isn’t easy.
Start moving towards the destination that you want to reach, with energy and passion. Learn a new skill, which makes you get up early in the morning and stay awake late at night. This way, it doesn’t matter if you’re good at it or not, you’ll keep at it until you’re satisfied. Because if you only stick to the things that you are good at, you will never learn anything. Therefore, finding your passion, love, and motivation in the thing that you want to do will get you to any destination you want, no matter how far it is or how tough it would be to get there.