Here’s a brief introduction of the three students.

Nand Patel is a final year information technology student at Parul University, India, and the leader of the Google Developer Student Club (GDSC) on their campus. Besides being an ardent learner, he is also interested in participating in various hackathons and competitions. His interests lie in virtual and augmented reality.

Dev Panchal hails from Vadodara, Gujrat. He is also a fourth-year student of IT engineering at Parul University. He is currently a technical team member of GDSC. He is also very passionate about coding.

The third student we talked to is Surajsinh Parmar. He is a classmate of both Nand and Dev. Besides being an IT nerd, he is also a member of GDSC. He too comes from the state of Gujrat.

Tell us more about GDSC. What is its vision?

Nand: Google Developer Student Club is a global venture that aims to promote IT and Google developer technologies. We are a group of students from all levels who engage in learning and building solutions for the local community. At GDSC, we learn not only IT skills but also several soft skills such as teamwork, management, etc.

We carry out numerous activities such as working on open-source projects, organizing seminars and workshops, helping startups, etc. Recently, GDSC students also partnered with the entrepreneurship cell at Parul University to win the “Best startup in Gujarat” award and a grant of ~2 lakh INR (approx. 150,000 rubles or $2504 ). 

How did you come across ITMO’s summer school in machine learning?

Nand: Attending summer schools is like my hobby. In 2021, I went to Poland to be a part of a Python summer school. I learned many applications of Python and other programming languages there. The natural next step is to get trained in machine learning. I have to give credit to Dr. Ankit Chauhan, our professor, and coordinator for ITMO. He was the one who informed us about the summer school and accompanied us all the way to St. Petersburg.

What were your expectations from ITMO?

Dev: ITMO is one of the best universities in computer science worldwide. As aspiring computer technologists, we were thrilled to discover that ITMO was the champion of the International Collegiate Programming Contest for a record seven times! So, we expect to learn a number of transferable skills from the teachers here at ITMO.

Members of Google Developer Student Clubs, Parul University at ITMO’s coworking space. Photo courtesy of Nand Patel

Members of Google Developer Student Clubs, Parul University at ITMO’s coworking space. Photo courtesy of Nand Patel

Describe your experience once you landed at the airport?

Dev: We were feeling really cold. The change in the climate was drastic. We were received at the airport by our respective ITMO buddies. They were extremely welcoming and compassionate. They helped us buy SIM cards and escorted us to our hotels. 

Suraj: For the first few days, they also helped us buy stuff from the stores. They helped us settle in the city and learn the dos and the don’ts. They still text us every day to enquire if we need any assistance. 

Nand: The weather is so good here. It is comparable to the city of Kashmir in India which is also known as Paradise on Earth. The air is so fresh and free of pollutants. My lungs are finally happy!

Talking about tourist attractions, which ones are your favorite?

Nand: Thanks to ITMO, we got a local guide who explained everything in detail to us. It was a fascinating trip to the Hermitage. We were astonished by the fact that it is the second largest museum in the world! It is massive and it is so beautiful. The second thing that blew my mind was the metro. It is so deep, so efficient, and so clean. The engineering is incredible. I must admit, traveling in the metro has been one of the coolest experiences so far.

What are your fondest memories of this trip?

Dev: The international student support department organized a small get-together party for us where we prepared Russian dishes. It was a fun-filled experience for all of us. We got introduced to so many different types of Russian food – borscht, olivier salad, okroshka, and so much more! I can’t even remember all of their names. We bonded so well with everyone. This is definitely an experience that will be etched in our hearts forever. 

Suraj: For me, white nights have been the showrunner. I have never experienced anything like this before. It is so cool to experience this phenomenon firsthand.

Nand: White nights are really awesome. They allow you to work so much more. I would like India to have white nights too (chuckles). 

“The hospitality at ITMO is heart-warming,” was the unanimous comment of the summer school students from Parul University. Photo courtesy of Nand Patel

“The hospitality at ITMO is heart-warming,” was the unanimous comment of the summer school students from Parul University. Photo courtesy of Nand Patel

Are you taking any souvenirs with you?

Dev: Of course, we have bought a few matryoshka dolls. They symbolize Russia and hence are perfect souvenirs according to me. 

Suraj: We also got ourselves  Hermitage coins for 200 rubles. It is also going to act as a souvenir. We are excited to show them to our families back in India.

What is your assessment of Indian food in St. Petersburg?

Nand: We tried Tandoor and Namaste, two popular Indian restaurants in St. Petersburg. The food is really good. After the meal, we would say: “Wahi Delhi ka swaad aa raha hai” (It tastes the same as Delhi’s). Personally, I prefer Tandoor to Namaste. I feel its food is more authentic.

Do you think you are getting enough hands-on practice?

Suraj: Yes, it was a major contrast to how we study in India. Everything here is extremely practical. Our courses are 20% theory and 80% practice. This way we develop a profound problem-solving attitude. 

Nand: The teaching has been very efficient. The teachers provided us with all the necessary support. We are very satisfied with the overall experience. I highly recommend everyone to enroll in ITMO’s summer schools.

How much Russian have you learned?

Nand: I have learned very little. It is embarrassing but that’s the truth. Привет and спасибо [Hi and thank you] – that’s how far my vocabulary goes!

Dev: I too have learned only the basics. But it is a beautiful language. I would like to learn more. 

What are your key takeaways from the summer school?

Dev: We got more than we expected. The teaching has been excellent. The teachers are very cooperative and supportive. They teach us everything in English. It is a really enriching experience.

Nand: I feel this summer camp has taught us a handful of new skills that will help us get better jobs in India. I have developed on all fronts and the summer school has been the catalyst for all of that. East or West, ITMO and Parul University are the best!

Here’s a throwback to the last time when students from Parul University visited ITMO. Want a sneak peek into the lives of other Indian students at ITMO? Here are our Student Spotlight recommendations: Ashish T.S. Ireddy, Hrishikesh Gujrati, Kirtan Patel, and Takshma Bhatt.