Why did you decide to get a PhD degree in informatics and computer engineering at ITMO?

I chose this post-graduate program because in Angola, we have very few post-graduate students in my field. My studies focus on mathematical modeling, numerical methods, and software complexity, and I always wanted to gain more knowledge about the methods of transferring information, including those that require computers.

The decision to study at this great university was influenced by the rankings. When I was looking for good universities, I saw the 2019-2020 QS rankings and decided to go for it. I settled on Russia, as there was a possibility to get some help from my government, and of course Russian culture has always interested me.

What was your educational path before joining ITMO?

Before Russia, I was a high school student in Angola, and then I came to Russia to study at Tver State Technical University, where I completed both my Bachelor's and Master's degrees.

What were your first impressions of Russia?

I spent my first seven years here in the city of Tver. Tver is a small city, clean and historical. To be honest, on my first day in Russia I did not feel at home, but now that I got used to it I’d say that I love Russia. I want to say that I feel very lucky to live in this grandiose country. As for the weather, it is still difficult for me to adapt to. Another thing that I have been struggling with a lot is the Russian language: it is very difficult for me because of the grammar, but I am sure that soon everything will work out for me.

Gedesh Soma. Photo courtesy of the subject
Gedesh Soma. Photo courtesy of the subject

How is life as an international student?

It’s difficult, because I miss my loved ones and it’s hard to live in another country with another culture, climate, and language. I miss my friends and colleagues from my hometown, Luanda, and I have many great memories there.

What do you like most about St. Petersburg?

I like everything. What I like the most, however, is its beautiful architecture, many museums, as well as many clean and amazing parks.

What is your favorite food in St. Petersburg? Do you miss the cuisine of your country, or can you find everything here to cook the traditional dishes of your culture?

In St. Petersburg, I typically eat borscht and plov. I love them. Of course, I miss Angolan cooking, but I’m getting used to living without the traditional dishes. Luckily, here I could find some of the products from my country so from time to time I can cook some Angolan recipes, such as mufete (which is made up of fish, beans, vegetables, banana and sweet potato), to remember my hometown. 

Did you ever think of Russia as a place to do higher education? 

Honestly, I never thought that someday I would come to study in Russia. It's just a miracle!

Gedesh Soma. Photo courtesy of the subject
Gedesh Soma. Photo courtesy of the subject

What are your hobbies?

I really like to feed birds and ducks in the park, just to go out, walk, and chill. I like to go to different events at the university but I don’t participate much, I just like to watch. 

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to be able to complete my exams successfully this year. I also hope that my colleagues and I will carry out our project successfully.

I think that the future does not exist; we make the future now, the future depends on today. My goal is to graduate and participate in several projects at ITMO University. After completing the program, I would like to work for the university for several years and then return home.

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

I advise you to come to this wonderful country. There is not only knowledge to be found here but also wonderful people. The culture and traditions are super interesting and you will learn a lot, which will be useful for your professional and personal life.

Interview by Juan Sebastian Velasquez Acevedo