Thanks for joining us today. 

Thank you for inviting me. It is a pleasure to do this interview.

What are you studying at ITMO?

I am currently pursuing a Bachelor’s in software engineering. I am already in my second year.

What made you interested in IT?

When I was in high school, I had no idea about programming or information technology. My curiosity in IT started when I participated in a robotics festival with my friends. I had nothing much to contribute besides presenting slides. But I was amazed to see all the cool gadgets made by students from different universities. My interest in software became more intense when our team was declared the winner in the category Youth Innovative Idea. This was the turning point in my life. I became very eager to learn more about programming and robots and, hence, ended up joining ITMO.

How did ITMO become your preferred choice of university?

There were not many options for advanced education in my country. So, I started looking for opportunities abroad. I was also keen on receiving a scholarship to help me fund my studies. When I came in for my IELTS exam, a senior introduced me to the Russian Government Scholarship. I got really interested in this and started looking for universities in Russia. Then I came across a post on ITMO’s social media about them winning ICPC seven times! This made my decision very easy. ITMO naturally became my first choice.

Were you enrolled in the Foundation Program?

Yes, I had to study Russian for one year as a part of the Foundation Program. It was mandatory for every student who had won the scholarship. I attended my lectures online since the pandemic was still quite relevant back then.

How much Russian have you picked up so far?

I have learned how to read. I have some knowledge of basic grammar, but I still find it challenging to indulge in fluent conversations with my peers. So, I would assume I am still at A1 proficiency. It is still a work in progress. 

When it comes to hobbies, Israt is a fan of literature. Photo courtesy of the subject

When it comes to hobbies, Israt is a fan of literature. Photo courtesy of the subject

What has been your experience in Russia so far?

Besides the language, everything has been really good so far. I was the first student from Bangladesh to travel to Russia after COVID. I was too excited to come here. The first few days were a little tough but it is a usual thing. I knew how to use a translator app and it helped me a lot. I received a lot of support from the locals too.

What was your first impression of St. Petersburg?

It felt like a dream come true. When I googled the pictures of the Hermitage and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, I got an idea of how beautiful the city is. I was in awe of the beautiful architecture spread all around St. Petersburg. Even my dormitory looks so grand from the outside. I prefer the city in summer because then you can experience the true beauty of this place. After spending almost 3 years here, I can say that I love St. Petersburg more than my hometown, Dhaka!

Which dormitory are you staying in?

I’m staying in the dormitory located on Vyazemsky Lane. It is a very comfortable and well-maintained dorm. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t expecting the dorm to look so good.

Whom do you share your room with?

I am sharing my room with a girl from Kazakhstan. She is a very quiet and lovely girl. We both respect our personal spaces and get along really well. She helps me a lot with my studies, especially with Russian.

I also had another roommate from Latvia, but she left last year after she graduated. She used to treat me like her younger sister. She would bring me chocolates, take good care of me, and cook food for me. I miss her a lot these days.

Are you a part of any ITMO club?

No, unfortunately, I don’t have much free time to get involved in club activities. However, I want to be a part of a cultural group. So maybe, if I get some time in the future, I would join a club at ITMO.

What are some of your favorite places to visit in St. Petersburg?

I have been to the church of the Savior on Spilled Blood multiple times. It is one of my favorite places in the city. Last summer, I went to Begovaya and I loved it a lot. The beach was fantastic and I had a lot of fun exploring this place. I would count it as one of my most liked places ever.

“There’s so much more to explore in St. Petersburg. My journey has only begun,” says Israt. Photo courtesy of the subject

“There’s so much more to explore in St. Petersburg. My journey has only begun,” says Israt. Photo courtesy of the subject

Did you get a chance to visit Yagodnoe?

Not yet, but I have heard that it is a really good place for students to have fun and relax. I would definitely love to visit Yagodnoe in the near future.

Was it tough to adjust to the cold weather here?

I arrived here in November. Back then it wasn’t too cold and I became rather careless. I thought St. Petersburg isn’t as cold as people claim. But when it started snowing in late November, I realized how wrong I was. It was my first time experiencing snowfall and I had never felt so cold in my entire life. I slipped and fell down many times while trying to walk on ice. But gradually, I learned to adapt and now I am quite comfortable with the weather here.

Do you like Russian food?

No, not really. As you might know, we Asians cannot live without spices. Russian dishes have a major lack of certain spices that makes them very different from what we are used to eating at home. So, I prefer cooking for myself mostly. When I don’t have time to cook, I grab something from a fast food place.

Summer’s approaching! What are your plans?

I have a couple of ideas at the back of my mind. The first would be to visit Sochi. I have heard that it is a very nice city and the weather is quite pleasant too. The second plan is to travel abroad with a friend of mine. Let’s see how many of these I can actually accomplish.

Would you like to share any advice for prospective students from Bangladesh?

I would urge them to keep in mind that you can’t survive here without hard work and dedication. I have seen many students take their studies lightly, resulting in backlogs and expulsions. Please take your studies seriously. Other things can wait. Also, learning the language is not going to be easy. It is mandatory for every international student to learn the language as quickly as they can to ease the language barrier.