What do you love the most about your hometown?

My hometown Lahore is the capital city of the Punjab province of Pakistan. It is one of the most happening cities in the country. Owing to the varieties of mouth-watering delicacies available in the city, it is regarded as the street-food hub of Pakistan. There’s a saying in Pakistan that you were never born if you didn't try Lahore’s street food.

What is your favorite kind of street food?

It is difficult to choose one dish for a foodie like me. But biriyani is one of my favorite dishes of all time. It is a delicious and aromatic rice dish usually made with meat and eggs. Basmati, a special kind of extra-long rice, is used for preparing it.

How did you choose ITMO?

I was looking for opportunities abroad. I came across the Open Doors Scholarship and gave it a shot. To my utter glee, I was one of the winners. I came across ITMO on the scholarship website as they were one of the participating universities. The more I learned about this beautiful university, the more fascinated I became. Joining ITMO was a pretty straightforward decision thereafter.

What are you studying at ITMO?

I am studying a 2-year Master’s program in molecular biology and biotechnology at SCAMT. What attracted me most was the modular system followed by this program. I could study one subject at a time. As a result, I could focus wholeheartedly on each topic one by one. It also saved a lot of time which allowed me to do my research work. I really encourage other universities to take ITMO’s model as an example and implement it in their curriculum as well.

Talha performing onstage in Pakistan. Photo courtesy of the subject

Talha performing onstage in Pakistan. Photo courtesy of the subject

Did you enjoy studying at ITMO? 

I had arrived late in St. Petersburg due to the travel restriction levied during the pandemic. It took me some time to get into a research lab. After a month of toil, I got accepted to the microbiology lab at SCAMT headed by Dr. Elena Koshel. I am having a wonderful time at the university. My colleagues, both Russian and international ones, are very helpful and friendly. The teachers are very caring and skilled. Enrolling at ITMO has been my best decision so far.

What is your research project about? 

I am working on an inorganic platform for increasing hydrogen peroxide production by probiotic microorganisms. It involves the study of various metallic nanoparticles and their activity in different strains of lactobacillus bacteria. The end goal is to create a product that will improve the treatment of infectious diseases. 

What are your hobbies?

I am very interested in acting and other similar performing arts. While I was in Pakistan, I performed in numerous drama and mime shows. I wish to continue performing in Russia as well.

What is your impression of St. Petersburg?

It is a beautiful city. I arrived here during winter when it was completely veiled in snow. It was challenging for me to cope with the weather at first but with the right kind of clothing, I was able to adjust well. I think the city will look absolutely gorgeous in summer. St. Petersburg becomes lively when the sun shines bright.

“Studying in St. Petersburg has been like a dream,” says Talha. Photo courtesy of the subject 

“Studying in St. Petersburg has been like a dream,” says Talha. Photo courtesy of the subject 

How did you celebrate Eid in St. Petersburg?

This was my first celebration of Eid without my family. I was missing them a lot. However, I had new friends here to enjoy the day with. We cooked sevaiyan, a staple Eid recipe in Pakistan. It is made of vermicelli, condensed milk, and dry fruits. I was surprised to find vermicelli at a local store here in St. Pete. It turned out to be utterly flavorful. My friends liked it a lot as well. I also read namaz at a local mosque.

Do you like staying in a dormitory?

I am living in ITMO’s dormitory located at Alpiyskiy Pereulok 15. It is a nice and tidy place. Many international students from countries like India, Egypt, and Syria also live in the same dormitory. The cost is also very low which makes it easier for students like us to manage our finances. The dorm is well connected to the city. It also has many high-quality groceries nearby.

What are your future plans?

I won the Open Doors Scholarship for PhD studies this year. I have an offer from Kazan Federal University. However, I am also exploring other opportunities in the job market. I am open to both at the moment. Let’s see what I end up doing. Only time will tell.