Tell us something about Costa Rica.

My country is located in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. It is flanked by two water bodies, namely the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is a small but beautiful country filled with rainforests. Costa Rica is best known for its beaches, volcanoes, and jungles that have various exotic species of animals, including spider monkeys and quetzal birds.

What was your childhood like there?

I was a very curious kid. I studied in a technical school where I learned science and math. I also took taekwondo and martial arts classes for several years. I am also a big admirer of handicrafts. I used to make objects and figurines from wood, metal, gypsum, etc. My passion for building doesn’t end there. I got interested in building robots. Once, I made a computer numerical control (CNC) machine at home. I ordered the parts online and followed a YouTube tutorial. 

How would you describe your hometown? 

It is a very hot city. It is highly picturesque and a major tourist destination. People like to sunbathe and relax on the beaches. There’s joy and mirth in the air. 

And what about St. Petersburg?

There’s a clear contrast between Costa Rica and St. Petersburg. It is super cold here. I had never seen snow before. The buildings, the streets, and the people are also different. Initially, I had to face a few challenges. But now, I am enjoying myself here. 

Tell us something about your taekwondo and martial arts training.

I was very young when a friend of mine, who used to take taekwondo lessons, encouraged me to join him. I started going with him and instantly took an interest in the sport. I took taekwondo for years and participated in various tournaments. Once, I traveled to Panama for an international taekwondo tournament. I had to quit taekwondo due to my exams. 

Then, in high school, I started taking martial arts lessons. I enjoyed it a lot as well. I continued learning it until I came to St. Petersburg. I have a huge desire to resume learning again. I saw an advertisement for a karate school here that is looking for new students. I hope I will join it soon.

“The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is a must-visit,” says Carlos. Photo courtesy of the subject

“The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is a must-visit,” says Carlos. Photo courtesy of the subject

Did you receive any belts?

Yes, I did! Just like in karate, the belts signify various levels of expertise. I have around 6 belts in taekwondo and 4 in various martial arts. There is a shelf at my home in Costa Rica that stores all of my 10 belts and other trophies. I also have around 40 to 50 medals. These tokens of achievement always remind me that hard work never goes futile.

Why did you decide to study in Russia?

I was looking for opportunities abroad, as I always wanted to study in a foreign country. I was considering several universities in the USA, Mexico, Germany, Canada, and the like. I got to know about Russia and its scholarship programs from the Consulate General of Russia in Costa Rica. Upon comparison, I concluded that Russia is the best destination for higher education. 

What are you studying at ITMO?

I am a first-year Bachelor’s student of mechatronics and robotics. As I had previously mentioned, I have a great knack for building robots. Therefore, I decided to pursue it and earn the necessary skills to become a robotics engineer. 

Did you study Russian as a part of the Foundation Program?

Yes, I did study there, but remotely. Due to the pandemic, I was still in Costa Rica. It was a very challenging experience for me mainly due to the time difference. I used to attend these classes at 1 am local time!

“Learning Russian is much easier when you are in Russia,” says Carlos. Photo courtesy of the subject

“Learning Russian is much easier when you are in Russia,” says Carlos. Photo courtesy of the subject

How difficult was it for you to learn the language?

It was extremely difficult. People in Costa Rica usually speak Spanish or sometimes English. Learning a new language like Russian was a very difficult job for me, as I had no one to practice with after the lessons. But I must say I learned the basics pretty well and now I am improving on it. From my experience, you can learn a language much faster when you practice it with a native speaker.

Did you enjoy traveling to Russia?

It was an amazing journey. Long, tiring, but full of excitement. It took me 33 hours to fly from Costa Rica to St. Petersburg. I was completely exhausted by the time I arrived at Pulkovo Airport. But as soon as I stepped outside, my fatigue disappeared like magic! The beauty of the city infused a dose of energy and excitement in me. 

Khachapuri, a popular Georgian dish. Credit: Christine Isakzhanova on Unsplash.

Khachapuri, a popular Georgian dish. Credit: Christine Isakzhanova on Unsplash.

What is your opinion about Russian food?

I really like it. While I was in Costa Rica, I was a little worried about food. I love to eat and I can also cook. You can say cooking is a hobby of mine. I love making different dishes such as pelmeni (Russian dumplings), borscht (beetroot soup), and khachapuri (a Georgian cheese pastry). I also want to try some new dishes such as kholodets (Russian meat aspic).

What did you like the most about Russian New Year?

It was snow that stood out to me the most. I had seen snowy Christmas and New Year only in movies. To experience that for the first time was really special. It was also my first Christmas and New Year away from home. I missed my family a lot. However, my friends and roommates helped me enjoy it well. We cooked several dishes and had a great time together.

What is the best thing about St. Petersburg?

Its rich history and architecture. I had the chance to visit the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. The architecture is breathtaking! The onion-shaped domes are its speciality. You can see them from miles away. The interior is equally beautiful. You feel so peaceful inside. I recommend it to everyone. It is a must-visit.

What are your plans for the future?

After graduating, I want to launch my own robotics- and automation-based startup. Apart from science, I am also interested in entrepreneurship and business management. I hope I can apply all my skills and establish a company that can solve automation-related problems in the 21st century.