Where are you from?

I am from Ecuador, a South American country encompassed by the Amazon rainforest, the Andes highlands, and the Galapagos Islands. 

What are you studying at ITMO?

I am currently enrolled in ITMO’s Foundation Program, where I am learning Russian. After completing this course, I will enter the Bachelor’s program in biotechnology.

How did you come across ITMO?

I didn’t know much about Russia and its universities. I was looking for opportunities abroad when I came across the Russian government scholarship for international students provided by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Russia. While I was going through the admission process, I found out that ITMO is a leading university in biotechnology education and research. Upon checking its website and social media accounts, I fell in love with the campuses and the labs.  

What made you interested in biotechnology?

Since my childhood, I have felt a special connection with our home planet, Earth. The climate crisis is a serious thing nowadays and biotechnology has the potential to solve it, at least to some extent. Therefore, I wanted to study industrial biotechnology which would provide me with the knowledge and skills required to save the environment. The program at ITMO is challenging but I am up for it.

“St. Petersburg has some incredible architecture throughout the city,” says Nataly. Photo courtesy of the subject

“St. Petersburg has some incredible architecture throughout the city,” says Nataly. Photo courtesy of the subject

Is it challenging to learn Russian?

Yes, it was tough for me especially when I was attending my Russian classes remotely from Ecuador. The lack of practice was a major hindrance in gaining the confidence to communicate in Russian. However, now that I am in the country, I feel I am able to get much more practice. Gradually, I am able to communicate well with my friends and teachers. 

How important is it for an international student to learn Russian?

It is mandatory for international students to have some knowledge of Russian at the very least. Even if the subjects are taught in English, one needs to communicate with university officials who don’t understand English or other foreign languages. One would also need Russian to start a conversation at a grocery store or a restaurant.

What was your first impression of St. Petersburg?

“WOW”! That was the word that came out of my mouth. It was as if I had discovered a hidden treasure. The city is extremely beautiful. Beautiful roads, parks, and monuments. Talking about buildings and monuments, the architecture is mesmerizing. Charming artwork can be found everywhere in the city, all the canals run throughout it adding to its grandeur. St. Petersburg is aptly called the “Venice of the North.”

What do you think about winter in St. Pete?

I have heard that it gets extremely cold during winters. Fortunately, I arrived here in February, when it was already the end of the winter season. In Ecuador, winters are not really freezing. So I don’t have a lot of winter clothes as of now. But I am planning to buy some here in order to prepare myself for the next winter.

Nataly’s favorite memory of St. Pete is visiting the Hermitage. Photo courtesy of the subject

Nataly’s favorite memory of St. Pete is visiting the Hermitage. Photo courtesy of the subject

Which is your go-to place in the city?

It has to be Nevsky Prospekt. It is such a lively place. Major attractions such as the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and the Kazan Cathedral are all located here. There are numerous restaurants here too. You can find food from every cuisine on Nevsky Prospekt.

Do you live in a dormitory?

Yes, I live in the dormitory located on Vyazemsky Lane. It is a very comfortable place to live. The dormitory is clean and equipped with all modern facilities. It is a block-type dorm and I share it with two other students. The kitchen is also well-furnished with every necessary appliance.

What is your fondest memory of being an international student at ITMO?

I have not spent much time at ITMO yet, so definitely there’s room for more memories to be made. So far, I have really enjoyed studying at ITMO. Everyone is so welcoming. It is so easy to get incorporated into ITMO.Family. My favorite memory to date is visiting the Hermitage with my friends. It is simply the best museum on Earth. It is the perfect manifestation of a fairytale palace.