Why did you choose ITMO?

I chose ITMO because of its good reputation and high-quality facilities. Additionally, the professors seemed to be very proficient in the areas that I wanted to enhance or improve my knowledge of. 

What was your educational path before joining ITMO?

Before coming here I was working on my Bachelor’s in information sciences at Minnesota State University.

How were your first days in St. Petersburg?

When I first came here, I had to complete the whole admission process at the university. To my surprise, it was very quick and straightforward. I quickly realized that the Russian language is very difficult, but I’m studying it whenever I have time to get better at it.

I had mostly positive experiences with individuals from ITMO. Although outside, I found St. Petersburg to possess a low-trust environment culture; Russia was not that hospitable and welcoming of a country at the beginning, but is fairly well-maintained. On a personal level, I would prefer a more provincial Russian city, but university resources and infrastructure would be more limited there.

Todd Johnsen. Credit: Jorge Medina (@jamedina5) for ITMO.NEWS

Todd Johnsen. Credit: Jorge Medina (@jamedina5) for ITMO.NEWS

How is life as an international student?

Good in some ways and difficult in others. The cost of living in Russia is cheap, but social life can be difficult. Again, at ITMO there is little for me to complain about. Outside, I find continuity with Russians to be limited and the duration of relationships, etc, to be extremely short.

What was the best experience that you had at the university?

The fairness and helpfulness of the professors and other staff at ITMO. It’s a much more hospitable environment than I found at my university in the United States.

Todd Johnsen. Credit: Jorge Medina (@jamedina5) for ITMO.NEWS

Todd Johnsen. Credit: Jorge Medina (@jamedina5) for ITMO.NEWS

What are your hobbies?

I like to ski, hunt, produce video content, and exercise.

What are your plans for the future?

At the university, I expect to gain more knowledge to apply to my individual business pursuits. Since my childhood and during my Bachelor’s studies, I had the dream of starting a successful company and that’s also one of the reasons why I chose ITMO as my university of preference: prepare for my future goals and learn new things every day.

In the meantime, while I’m working on my dream of starting my own company, I would like to continue working on a science-related enterprise right after I finish my Master’s degree.

Any advice for other international students who want to come to Russia and do a Master's degree here?

Learn Russian as a youth, since the language could be a big limitation here for your everyday life. Also, I would recommend provincial cities over cities like Moscow or St. Petersburg.

Interview by Juan Sebastian Velasquez Acevedo