Hello Sharif, how are you doing?
I am doing very well and enjoying the fall season here in St. Petersburg. Orientation days are on now and it is great to see so many new faces in and around ITMO.
Awesome! Did you meet any new students from your country?
I did not find anyone from Afghanistan yet. But I am sure there will be new students from my country and I am excited to meet them.
What are you studying at ITMO?
I am pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in software engineering. For a year, I have been studying the Russian language at ITMO’s Foundation Program to get prepared. From this semester, I’m officially enrolled in my Bachelor’s program.
Was learning Russian difficult?
At first, it was. The language was very new to me. The script is also different. I had to work very hard to learn it. But after a few months of learning and practice, I was able to communicate with the natives using a few colloquial phrases. It is important for every international student to learn some Russian. It is otherwise difficult to do day-to-day stuff like shopping, hiring a cab, visiting the doctor, etc.
Were you always interested in computer science?
Yes, I have been fascinated with computers from a very young age. In school, I loved fidgeting with computers and playing different games.
Why did you decide to study in Russia?
I wanted to study abroad. It was my dream. I came across Russia and its education system, which I knew was excellent and highly respected worldwide. I was looking for a good university in computer science when I found ITMO. Undoubtedly, ITMO is one of the best universities in the world when it comes to computer science and IT. One does not simply win the ICPC contest seven times! I feel proud to be a part of this prestigious institution.
So what's it like for you at ITMO?
What I love the most about the university is its diverse culture. There are students and staff from so many different regions of the world, representing various cultures, and every one of them is respected and treated equally here. As an international student, I never felt left out. I feel at home here.
What stands out the most to you about St. Petersburg?
The most striking thing about Russia and St. Petersburg in particular is its winter. It is unique and very, very cold. Last winter, there was snow all around and the temperature plummeted to an unbelievable -26 degrees Celsius. The winters are tough but, on the flip side, the summers are extremely good and refreshing.
Could you share some strategies for staying warm during the winter with our new students?
So, this is what I did to keep myself warm: wear good-quality winter clothes (it is always advisable to buy them here rather than in your country) and don’t go out much, especially at night. The sun stays hidden pretty much throughout the winter, so don’t forget to take your vitamin D supplements regularly. Remember to exercise, eat healthy, and get enough sleep.
Do you have any favorite places to hang out?
Of course, I went to several places in and around St. Petersburg and all of them are extremely beautiful. But the ones that I love the most are the Hermitage, the city of Pushkin; there’s also one really great beach in the Leningrad Oblast that I like. To me, it was the most interesting place. It is perfect for sitting back and relaxing with friends, especially in the summer season.
Do you like Russian food?
Oh yes, I do! Blini, shawarma, and pelmeni are my favorites. There are lots of different options available here. In Russia, you get to try different types of soups (like borscht) and salads (like Olivier salad).
What are your plans for the new academic year?
I want to work on my programming skills and learn a few programming languages like Python, CSS, HTML, etc. At the same time, I also want to become fluent in Russian. I am also interested in learning more about cryptocurrency and digital marketing. In a nutshell, I will be working on myself and striving every day to become a better version of myself.