So, how’s your life at ITMO so far?

It has been quite amazing. I feel very comfortable as an international student here. ITMO does take good care of us!

ITMO is home to many Vietnamese students. How does it feel to be a part of this community?

Being with so many Vietnamese students gives me a lot of confidence. We participate in many activities together. One big advantage is the language. Whenever we are together, we talk in our mother tongue amongst ourselves. I am also a member of the Vietnamese Football Club here in St. Petersburg.

How good is your command of the Russian language?

Not too good, I would say. When I first came to Russia, I knew nothing of the language. Thanks to ITMO’s Foundation Program, I was able to slowly but surely learn the basics. I would still say I am not very fluent, though. Much of it is due to the lack of practice. Spending a lot of time with other students from Vietnam doesn’t help the cause as well.

Have you completed your preparatory course?

Yes, I finished it a few months ago and now I am enrolled in the Bachelor’s program in computer systems and technologies.

Is the program in Russian?

Yes, it is taught completely in Russian.

And how are you managing your studies? Learning technical subjects in Russian must be tough.

It is tough indeed. At times, it becomes really difficult to understand what the teacher is trying to explain. However, I have a few kind-hearted Russian friends who assist me. They translate the key points of every lesson. At times, they also help me complete my homework.

So, is learning Russian still important for you?

I am trying, but it is difficult to do both – learn Russian and study software engineering and programming simultaneously.

Dong is having a great time at ITMO with his friends. Photo courtesy of the subject

Dong is having a great time at ITMO with his friends. Photo courtesy of the subject

The language barrier is a challenge for every international student. Nevertheless, you decided to study in Russia. How so?

When I was studying at a university in Vietnam, I came across a scholarship for international students. I had the opportunity to apply to any country but I chose Russia because it has such great ties with Vietnam. Also, my idol, Gennady Korotkevich (nickname: Tourist), is from Russia too. So that was a major motivation.

That’s awesome! And why ITMO?

The credit once again goes to my idol, Tourist. When I got to know that he was a student at ITMO, too, I had no doubt in my mind as to where I was applying to.

ITMO has multiple campuses. Where do you have most of your lessons?

I have had classes on only two campuses, namely Kronverksky and Lomonosova.

And what’s your preferred mode of transport between campuses?

While buses and the metro are popular modes of transport, my preferred one is an e-scooter. It’s so much fun to ride one, especially in the summer and the fall. Moreover, ITMO students are entitled to a couple of free rides every day.

It reminded me of a funny incident that happened to me some time ago. After getting down from my scooter, I forgot to finish the trip. I was in a hurry as I was running late for class. As a result, it went on adding up the fare. It was really an unlucky day, because I think I ran out of free rides as well.

Oh no! That’s a shame. Well, did you visit any places of interest in St. Pete?

I did and my favorites were the Hermitage and Catherine Palace.

And what about food? Do you have any particular preferences?

I do like shawarma. We Asians have a weakness for spicy food. Our taste buds don’t function the same as the Russian ones. Therefore, I prefer to eat anything that is spicy as it better resembles Vietnamese food.

There are numerous Vietnamese restaurants in St. Pete. How would you rate their authenticity?

I have tried many of them and I must admit they taste fabulous. Quite authentic as well. It reminds me of home to be honest.

Apparently, you’ve had a nice time here so far. What are your plans going forward?

I would like to apply for academic mobility and go to a foreign country to study. I love the concept of student exchange and it is a dream of mine to be an exchange student at some point in my life.

Dong enjoyed his first winter in St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy of the subject

Dong enjoyed his first winter in St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy of the subject

Which country would you like to study in?

I would like to study in Spain. That’s because my favorite football club, Barcelona FC, is from there, and I would like to take a tour of Camp Nou, their home stadium.

Oh, so you are a Barcelona fan! Who is your favorite player from the current squad?

It's Ousmane Dembele. I really like him, because he is technical, agile, and a great sportsman.

Nice choice! Do you play football yourself?

Yes, I sometimes do. Remember the Vietnamese Football Club I told you about earlier? I play with them.

Have you come across the ITMO sports club – KronBars? They have a football coach and team, too.

I am aware of that, but I haven’t had the opportunity so far to enroll myself in any of their classes. So, as of now, I am not a part of any of their clubs or teams.