Hello, let’s start our conversation with your introduction.
I am Nouar from Syria. I am an IT engineer by profession. I graduated way back in 2010 with a Master’s degree in decision support systems. My work deals with artificial intelligence and visualization within networks.
What are you studying at ITMO?
I am currently enrolled in the Foundation Program, where I am learning the Russian language. Next year, I will be pursuing my PhD in machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Was studying in Russia always a part of your plans?
I always wanted to study abroad. I have been waiting for the opportune moment. After working as a professional for several years, my desire for studying again was ignited when I came across ITMO and its PhD program.
How did you get to know about ITMO?
A good friend of mine referred me. He was studying for a Master’s degree here and graduated with honors (a red diploma). He spoke highly of ITMO, its infrastructure, and the teachers. He was the one who encouraged me to apply for a PhD here.
What has been your experience with learning Russian so far?
It is a bit tough. Definitely, it is not as easy as English or Latin. But we have a lovely teacher. She is very supportive and skilled in the art of teaching. I am progressing well. I never miss my homework (домашнее задание in Russian).
In your opinion, what is the best strategy for international students to master the Russian language?
Speak loudly! I feel that the more you articulate the words, the better you retain them. Also, it massively improves your pronunciation. My roommate is also Syrian, and we always communicate in our mother tongue. I think it would be better for both of us to start talking in Russian.
What are your research interests?
I am interested in machine learning. I have had a few discussions with my supervisor. She has shared some of her ideas about my PhD project. I am still working on it but it will potentially be about developing a novel classifier model. We are still planning it but I am sure it will be something really good.
How has your life in St. Pete been so far?
I feel great here. It is an enormous country. Life here is very fast. You have to learn to work a lot and put your best foot forward. But the good thing is, this attitude suits my personality. It is an interesting challenge.
What kind of accommodation do you have in St. Pete?
I live in a dormitory provided by ITMO which is located on Lensoveta St. 23, near the Moskovskaya metro station. It’s a clean and quiet place, even though it’s a little far from the city center. I share my room with two other students.
How does it feel to be a student again?
Actually, I've never stopped learning. The nature of my job requires me to stay up to date with all the latest development around the world. Apart from the difference in the language of instruction, everything seems usual to me.
Besides the language, the food must also be different for you. How are you adapting to it?
I cook my own food! I am not used to Russian cuisine yet. I tried it once at an ITMO cafeteria (столовая) but I didn’t really like it. I have to get used to it, ultimately. Seems like a long road, though.
Did you visit any places of attraction in St. Pete?
Yes, I did go to the city center, Nevsky Prospekt. But I haven’t been to the Hermitage yet. I have only seen it from the outside. Another exciting thing that I saw was the opening of the bridges. It is a spectacular thing. Nature itself is so amazing here. I love taking walks in parks, especially Moskovsky Victory Park.
How are you coping with the cold?
That is a big problem for me. I have never experienced anything like this before. I hope I can get used to it soon enough. I don’t want to end up falling sick.
What are your plans for Christmas and New Year?
I am excited for all of it. I want to see the beautiful Christmas trees that are decorated throughout the city. Also, I am planning to bring my wife and two kids to Russia next year. I want them to see this vibrant city.
Any piece of advice for future students?
My advice to all those students who are thinking of studying in Russia is that it is a very good choice. I can confirm that science in Russia is very advanced. Getting educated in this country will surely help you progress in your career.