Please introduce yourself to our readers.

I am Istahad from Bangladesh. Currently, I am learning the Russian language and culture at ITMO’s Foundation Program. I am also attending a few classes in mathematics, informatics, and physics. Starting next year, I will be studying software engineering. There are three specialization tracks available for Bachelor’s students, and I will opt for Applied Systems.

What excites you most about software engineering?

At first, I wanted to be a pilot. But as I grew up, my interests changed. When I was in high school, I learned C. But after some time, I got bored. During the pandemic, I started learning Java. That’s when I really got the taste for programming. Since then, I have dedicated myself to this field.

Why did you choose to learn Java over Python?

I think Java is better suited for beginners. It really helps one build the basics of programming. Also, it allows you to do a bit of both competitive programming and software development.

Why did you choose to study in Russia?

After graduating from high school, I started exploring different universities. I always wanted to study abroad. Since Russia provides full scholarships to international students, I was more inclined towards studying in this country. 


While I was applying for the Russian government scholarship, I placed ITMO as my first priority. I was hugely impressed by the fact that this is the only university worldwide that has won the ICPC competition seven times! I was very nervous at first because ITMO is such a high-ranking university and I thought I had no chance of getting accepted. However, things played out differently and here I am!

How does it feel to be at ITMO now?

I had never traveled outside of Bangladesh. So I was naturally a bit anxious. I made myself somewhat familiar with ITMO and St. Petersburg by reading a few student interviews. I was a little skeptical about things like ITMO.Family and ITMO.Mentors. I used to ponder if they were true. But once I arrived here, I realized every bit of it is true! Nothing is a bluff. And ITMO is truly more than a university. It is a place that we can call our second home.

How did it feel to travel abroad for the first time?

I had butterflies in my stomach. I was nervous but also very excited. Getting my passport and visa done was a lengthy task. The entire journey felt very special.  

Was getting past border control tough?

Not really. I was asked a few basic questions like where my university is located and how much Russian I can speak. I think they trusted me because I had an invitation from the government.

“I love spending time by the Neva river. It helps me clear my mind,” says Istahad. Photo courtesy of the subject

“I love spending time by the Neva river. It helps me clear my mind,” says Istahad. Photo courtesy of the subject

Did you have any “aha!” moments when you landed in St. Petersburg?

I had a major myth-busting experience. People in Bangladesh think that Russians are angry people who hate foreigners. But that’s not the case at all. On the contrary, Russian people are very helpful and kind. 

Have you made any friends here?

Since I am currently a Foundation student, I did not get the chance to meet many Russian students. So my friends are mostly from other countries like Egypt, India, and Syria. However, I did attend a few events organized by the ITMO Buddy System. I met some Russian students there.

Did you meet any students from Bangladesh?

Yes, I traveled with a few of them from my country. I also met a few seniors who are from Bangladesh. I was surprised and pleased to find so many Bangladeshis here. 

How much Russian have you learned already?

I can say Я немного говорю по-русски (I speak a little Russian)! Russian is really hard for me. However, I believe that in a year’s time I will be able to grasp the concept of this language and be able to communicate confidently. 

What’s your favorite thing about classes at ITMO?

The teachers! I have never seen such sweet and caring teachers. They pay equal attention to every student and make sure that everyone learns well. My experience with teachers had not been great until I started studying at ITMO.

How are you coping with the freezing temperature outdoors?

I am a winter person. For me, summers are unbearable. So far, it has been nice. I am enjoying the cold weather. Especially the snow, as it is my first time witnessing a snowfall. However, I don’t know how I will feel when the temperatures go down to -25 degrees Celsius.

What has been your experience with Russian food?

As an Asian, and especially a Bangladeshi, I like spicy food. For the first few days, I only had to survive on pasta and pizza. Food in Russia isn’t really spicy but it is very healthy. Shawerma is a dish that I like a lot. I am looking forward to trying more authentic Russian food.

Istahad with his friends at Yagodnoe. Photo courtesy of the subject

Istahad with his friends at Yagodnoe. Photo courtesy of the subject

Did you visit Yagodnoe?

Yes, I got the chance to visit Yagodnoe in my first week here. I consider myself really lucky. I enjoyed it a lot. The lake was beautiful. The camp, the dorm, and the food were amazing. The best part was the ambiance. I’d love to visit Yagodnoe once again.

What are your hobbies?

I like photography a lot. I am also a fitness freak. So, I like to maintain a good workout routine. There is a gym in my dormitory that is free for ITMO students. I also like creating digital art. 

Unfortunately, I don’t have my camera now. I am planning to buy a new one in a few months' time. Once I have it, I will start taking pictures regularly and posting them on my website.

What software do you use for digital art?

While I am tempted to use software like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, I am unable to do so at the moment because it is too expensive. I usually work with other applications like Inkscape and Pencil Sketch. While they are free to use, one needs to work harder to create good images on these apps.

What are your plans for Christmas?

I don’t have any concrete plans yet but I will surely explore the city more. I know it looks very pretty during Christmas. I also want to visit Peterhof, which is a popular tourist destination in St. Petersburg.