What are you studying at ITMO?
I am a first-year Master’s student in Information Security. I have always been very interested in cybersecurity and in today’s world, with the rapidly growing amount of data, it is one of the best subjects to study.
Did you do a Russian language course before university?
Yes, I completed my Russian language preparatory course at the Maykop State Technological University. Maykop is the capital city of the Republic of Adygea in Russia, located on the right bank of the Belaya River. It was there that I learned most of my Russian and thanks to that, I can communicate with the locals here in St.Petersburg.
How did you become a student at ITMO?
I won a 100% scholarship from the Government of Russia for my Master’s studies. I did well in my Bachelor’s and was ranked among the top 10 in my class. My good education record really helped me land the scholarship. ITMO was an easy choice because of its great reputation in information security. It is a non-classical university with a lot of emphasis on hands-on training, something that is essential for standing out in the competitive market. ITMO is also one of the few universities that have such high-class laboratories. Finally, its location, the beautiful city of St. Petersburg is simply mesmerizing!
As a student of information security, what subjects do you have to study?
The core subjects are programming languages, networks, database management, and the Internet of Things. We also study a few electives such as foreign language, soft skills, and high-tech business management. I am actually looking forward to the business management course as I have an idea for my own startup idea and I would love to establish my business here in St. Petersburg.
That’s really interesting! Can you share something about your startup idea?
For sure! So my Idea is based on information security. I have in mind a new and enhanced data security method that would be used to protect data in databases as well as encrypt them while transferring from one server to the other. My method would provide excellent data security and privacy to organizations that deal with a lot of important data like universities, military forces, social media platforms, and so on.
Nowadays we hear a lot about big data. Is it going to be a challenge to secure such a high volume of data?
Big data is not only about volume but also variety and veracity. It is true that the growing amount of data is a challenge to deal with but with the right kind of tools, it won’t be a problem. The main challenge is data management and luckily it is improving day by day. Thanks to excellent services from Google and IBM servers, big data is no more a headache.
Would you also need to use machine learning and artificial intelligence in your work?
I don’t think I will be needing it much but I will use it initially to filter and classify the data and understand the pattern of data generated from different sources. Maybe I will also need it to understand the patterns of data transfer from one point to the other. So yeah, it won’t be at the core of my startup but it would be handy in some preliminary analyses.
Let’s talk a little about your life here in St. Petersburg. Where do you live right now?
For now, I live in a dormitory located on Lensoveta Street 23. It is a good place with many international students. But as I said, I have my own startup idea and in the coming months, I would like to establish it here in St. Petersburg. If I am successful in doing that, I will move to my own apartment. So far, I don’t know anything about this process. I don’t even know if I am legally allowed to own a property here on a student visa or if I would have to rent a place for now, but I will figure it out.
What is your favorite Russian dish?
I usually like spicy food but in Russia, it is difficult to find. The dish that is closest to something traditionally Syrian is called плов (plov is a rice dish usually cooked in stock or broth with spices and other ingredients such as vegetables or meat). I like it a lot. It is my favorite Russian dish so far. There are a lot of restaurants in St. Petersburg that serve delicacies of the Middle East. There are a number of Indian restaurants here as well and the food there is absolutely delicious!
Do you miss your home?
Yes, I do miss my home. I miss the food a lot. I also miss the sunshine. Here, it is not so sunny for most parts of the year. But in Syria, it is very hot. In September, it's usually around 40 degrees! Russia is a cold country. I have heard that the temperatures go way below zero. So far, the weather has been enjoyable and pleasant. I am looking forward to my first snowy winter.
What are your hobbies?
I love content creation and vlogging. However, due to my studies, I don’t usually find a lot of time to do it consistently. I do own a YouTube channel where I plan to upload vlogs about St. Petersburg. It would be a shame not to share the beauty of this city with people all around the globe. I also have a Facebook page where I post articles about St. Petersburg in Arabic for the people of my country. There is a big misconception about Russia, mostly inspired by Hollywood movies. I want to bring the truth out. Russia is a great country with very friendly people. There is nothing to be scared of here.
Would you like to give any advice to the young aspiring international students in your home country?
The only thing that I would like to say is to have full faith in yourself. Believe in your potential. You can do this. Focus on your English because it is essential for communication. Also, start learning some Russian at home if you want to study in Russia. People here are very helpful and you will get the proper guidance that you need to build a successful career. So, don’t worry, start preparing for the admission process. You will be surprised by the way your life will evolve once you come to St. Petersburg!
Interview by Subhrajit Barua