Hello, please introduce yourself to our readers.

I am Johnson Oje from Nigeria, a West African country located on the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria is a very interesting place and I would say, it has the most hospitable people in the world.

Have you met other Nigerian students at ITMO?

Yes, I have a few Nigerian friends here. I have a few others as well. There are a lot of Africans at ITMO but not many Nigerians.

Does it benefit to know a few people from your country?

It does! Especially in the first days. It really helps you settle down in a foreign country. It also gives you a lot of confidence.

How does it feel to be a student at ITMO?

It is a very precious and prestigious thing for me. Before coming to Russia, I knew that ITMO is one of the top universities in the country. I feared that the acceptance rate would be too low, giving me very slim chances of making it to ITMO. However, when I got the email that I have been accepted, I was over the moon!

So, what are you studying at ITMO?

I am a first-year Master’s student of information security.

And is it taught in English?

Yes, as it is an international Master’s degree program, its language of instruction is English. 

Did you go through a preparatory course?

Yes, I studied Russian at ITMO’s Foundation Program for one year. I had to start it remotely due to the pandemic but I joined my classmates in person last December.

How was your experience of learning Russian?

I had some experience of learning a foreign language earlier, because I learned French during my Bachelor’s. However, learning Russian was difficult because of the Cyrillic script. It took me some time to understand and get a good grasp of the alphabet. I am doing well now and I hope to learn more in the future. 

What made you interested in information security?

I studied information technology earlier during my Bachelor’s. I liked every aspect of it but I enjoyed security the most. I studied it for one semester and immediately knew that it was my thing. There are numerous cases of fraudulent activity in my country. To be honest, there is a stereotype that Nigerians are cyberbullies. I thought to grab onto this opportunity and reduce cyber breaches not only in Nigeria but also in the whole world. 

Have you ever fallen victim to online fraud?

Yes, it was back in 2019 or 2020. Someone broke into my bank account and I lost a lot of money. I went to the bank and enquired about the incident but no one was able to provide me with any help. It was an eye-opener for me. I realized that I will not be the only one who has gone through this. Every day, thousands of people might be affected by cyber crimes and I must do something to reduce it.

Transitioning from 27 degrees to -25 degrees Celsius was a daunting task for Johnson. However, slowly but surely, he has settled in. Photo courtesy of the subject

Transitioning from 27 degrees to -25 degrees Celsius was a daunting task for Johnson. However, slowly but surely, he has settled in. Photo courtesy of the subject

What surprised you the most upon arrival?

It has to be the weather. When I left Lagos, it was 27 degrees Celsius. When I arrived in St. Petersburg, it was -25 degrees! The change in temperature was unlike anything that I had ever experienced in my life. Also, I did not quite feel the cold while I was at the airport. But as soon as I stepped outside, I froze! Luckily, I had my ITMO buddy. We went to my aunt’s house, where I was offered some warm clothes and a glass of champagne. Only then did I find some comfort!

What’s the most challenging thing about life in St. Pete?

Waking up early in the winter! My body simply doesn’t like getting out of bed. Also, it is dark until 10 AM during winter. I have asked my classmates to share their secrets of waking up and reaching the university in time during winter. I have not been able to master that skill yet.

Talking about adapting to life in Russia, how are you doing with Russian food?

I think it's an area that I am still working on. The problem is I don’t eat poultry and in Russia, one of the ubiquitous sources of protein is chicken. On top of that, I come from a place where we are used to spicy food. But here I don’t get many spicy seasonings. My friend recommended me some, but I felt it would be better without them after all. 

Do you cook your own food?

I do, sometimes when I get time. However, when I don’t, I usually end up going to Teremok. I really like their blinis. They are top-notch. 

Where do you stay?

I live in one of ITMO’s dormitories. It is located on Vyazemsky Lane.

What are your plans for the holiday season?

I love traveling. So, most probably, I will be traveling during the holidays. However, I want to first make sure that I have completed my studies for exams. 

Can you share some of your travel experiences?

Last year, I went to Moscow on a train from St. Petersburg. That was my first experience of traveling on a Russian train. I also visited Pushkin. To be honest, lectures are the only reason why I am sitting here at the moment. Otherwise, you would have seen me traveling and exploring new places.

“Holiday plans? Exploring Russia, of course,” says Johnson, wanderlust glowing in his eyes. Photo courtesy of the subject

“Holiday plans? Exploring Russia, of course,” says Johnson, wanderlust glowing in his eyes. Photo courtesy of the subject

What do you intend to do after you graduate?

I am still contemplating. Russia is a place I would love to stay but I am also exploring other options. I am open to a wide variety of opportunities. So let’s see where life takes me!

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring applicants from Nigeria?

Get ready for a whole new life. Fasten your seatbelts because your life is about to take off! It won’t always be pretty but through the different challenges you will grow up to become a better, stronger, and wiser person. Embrace the challenge.