Could you introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Alonso Arbildo Prieto and I am a 24-year-old South American. At ITMO, I am a Master’s student in the Technoscience, Innovation, and Economy program. It is an English-taught course, which makes things easier for me. I got my Bachelor’s in international business from a university in Peru.

How does it feel to finally be in St. Petersburg?

It feels incredible! I have been eagerly waiting for this day. I am happy to have made it here.

Tell us something about your hometown.

I belong to Lima, the capital city of Peru, where I live with my family. I have a sister who is very dear to me. 

Is this your first time abroad?

No, I have been to several countries as an exchange student, namely, Colombia, Spain, and China. I won fully-funded scholarships from the governments of China and Spain to study in their respective countries.

What motivated you to study at ITMO?

After studying in China, I was deeply intrigued by innovation. Chinese universities are so encouraging of innovation and they collaborate with organizations far and wide to develop their ideas. Russia is one of their leading collaborators and ITMO is a key partner. Since then, I had a wish to study innovation and technology at ITMO.

What challenges did you face while applying to ITMO?

One of the major challenges was the language barrier. When I applied to Colombia and Spain, it was all in Spanish; and in China, very few documents were needed as it was a short-term course. But in Russia, the application process was very long and I had to submit a number of documents. Nevertheless, everything was very clear and transparent. I received lots of support from the International Admission Office. Whenever I faced a problem, they would attend to it within a few hours. That is incredible!

Alonso has been to several countries including Colombia, Spain, and China as an exchange student. Photo courtesy of the subject

Alonso has been to several countries including Colombia, Spain, and China as an exchange student. Photo courtesy of the subject

How was your journey all the way from Peru?

It was super long but interesting. I had multiple layovers in Panama, Amsterdam, and Dubai. I even stayed in Dubai for two days for a little local tour. I went to Burj Khalifa, the Museum of the Future, etc.

Were there any funny or memorable moments on your way here?

Yes, and it was a nightmare! I can never forget the day I arrived! I was buying a SIM card at the airport, and absent-mindedly, I left my passport in the shop. I only realized that I did not have it when I reached my dorm. Luckily, the people at the shop were kind enough to call and notify me about it. I went back to the shop the next day and retrieved the passport. What a sigh of relief that was!

Did you have any major culture shock here?

It has to be the food. I was so surprised to see the food options here. It is so different from what I am used to. I could not find rice for the first couple of days. I had to depend only on meat, salads, and soups.

The other new thing is the weather. I have never been to such cold places. Also, I will be seeing snowfall for the first time in my life, which I am excited about!

So, have you grown fond of Russian cuisine?

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to adapt yet. So, most of the time, I cook my own food. Occasionally, I also order takeaway or eat outside. 

Do you live in a dormitory?

For the first few days, I lived in the dormitory near the Petrogradskaya metro station, but I had a problem with my roommate. We weren’t able to communicate well with each other and that led to further misunderstandings. Ultimately, I decided to move out and rent an apartment of my own. So, now, I stay in my own rented apartment.

“St. Petersburg is like a painting. You can find art in every corner of the city,” says Alonso. Photo courtesy of the subject

“St. Petersburg is like a painting. You can find art in every corner of the city,” says Alonso. Photo courtesy of the subject

Did you get an ITMO buddy?

Yes, I did get a buddy. I was in contact with her even before coming to St. Petersburg. She was super helpful. She was a savior for the first few days when she helped me with a lot of official work like extending my visa, getting a transit pass, etc. We have become good friends now. It is really nice to have a trustworthy friend from day one.

Does your program follow a modular curriculum?

Yes, it does and therefore I have to study only one core subject at a time. Right now, I have a core subject and an elective subject running simultaneously. Next month, once the core subject is done, I will be starting a new one. This model gives you the chance to work part-time or pursue your hobbies.

And what are those hobbies in your case?

I am fond of music. I like playing the guitar and the piano. However, I could not bring my instruments here. So, nowadays, my hobby is watching people and learning more about Russian culture.

Are you aware of ITMO’s student clubs? There are a few music clubs that you can join.

I was unaware of any such clubs, but I will definitely check them out.

Thank you so much for giving us your time. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

I would like to say that I am grateful to be studying at ITMO. As a South American, I feel privileged to be here. I encourage everyone reading this from South America to come to ITMO because IT’s MOre than a University!