Hello Ramin, thanks for accepting our invitation to do this interview.

Thank you very much for considering me. It is my absolute pleasure.

Great! So, what are you studying at ITMO?

I am a first-year Bachelor’s student of robotics and artificial intelligence. I have just completed my one-year Foundation Program.

What motivated you to select this program?

Robotics in my country is not quite developed. But robots and AI are the future of our world. Yes, they can have numerous disadvantages and risks, but if utilized properly, they can be of much help to us. So, I want to learn how to use this powerful technology in the best way possible.

Tell us something about your experience of studying Russian at the Foundation Program.

At first, it seemed to me that Russian is the most difficult language in the world. But once the classes began, I was surprised to find so many similarities between Russian and my native language, Persian. It made me even more interested in learning it.

And what can you tell us about your own country and its people?

Whenever the name of Afghanistan is mentioned, people form a somewhat negative picture in their head, but it is far from the reality. Afghanistan is a very mountainous country with picturesque landscapes. There’s also lots of diversity in my country. Many ethnic groups live together. Also, more than 36 languages are spoken here. Afghanistan is popular worldwide for its saffron and carpets. The people of Afghanistan are also very kind and hospitable.

And what about Afghan cuisine? Do you have any favorite dishes?

I like almost every Afghan dish, honestly. My favorite one would be kabuli pulao. It is absolutely delicious. There’s a pulao (plov) in Russia, too. But I haven’t found kabuli pulao anywhere in St. Petersburg yet. I have tried other varieties of pulao available in Russia, but none of them are as tasty.

Circling back to academics – why did you decide to study in Russia?

Russian education is famous globally. They have a history of producing great minds and pioneers all throughout history. So, I always wanted to study here because I was sure that I would receive a good education.

And how did you come across ITMO?

I was a student of electronics and electrical engineering in my country. Robotics fascinated me and it was quite obviously my favorite subject in school. Once, I was searching for scholarship opportunities in this field when I came across ITMO and their programs in robotics. Going through the website, I understood why ITMO is the best Russian university in this domain. Naturally, I didn’t waste any more time before clicking Apply!

Ramin likes to explore the streets of St. Petersburg, especially during the white nights. Photo courtesy of the subject

Ramin likes to explore the streets of St. Petersburg, especially during the white nights. Photo courtesy of the subject

How does it feel to live in St. Petersburg?

I have been here for almost eight months now and it didn’t feel like I was a student in a foreign country. It has been a very relaxed experience so far. ITMO’s staff have been very considerate and helpful to me. It really feels like I have found my second family here.

Do you have any special experiences here that you’d like to share?

Russian people are very helpful. When I first arrived in Moscow, I was completely lost and I had no idea how to get to the railway station. I didn’t speak Russian at all back then, so it was a lot more difficult for me to communicate. Luckily, a girl came up to me and offered to help. She accompanied me all the way to the railway station and even helped me find my train. I was really impressed by the helpful nature of Russians.

What are your favorite places to hang out in St. Petersburg?

When we graduated from the Foundation Program, we were taken to Park Pobedy, a beautiful park that is filled with stunning scenery. Also, I like visiting the remote regions of the city, where there are not many people. I like the calmness in such places. 

One of the best places to hang out is the center of the city, Nevsky Prospect. I really enjoyed the white nights on the streets.

Did the cold weather affect you?

Not really, because my hometown Badakhshan is also very cold. We have long winters full of snowfall. So, the weather in St. Petersburg wasn’t really new to me.

Do you like Russian food?

I am not a big fan, but I do have a few favorite dishes. The dish that I liked the most here was blinchiki. It is such a comfort food for me. I try to make it every day for breakfast. I like having an omelet along with my blinchiki.

What are your plans for the new academic year?

I am very excited to start the new semester. Currently, I am leveling up my skills. I am also preparing myself for some of the topics that I will have in my curriculum next year. I have started practicing some coding, namely using Python and Java. 

My subjects are going to be tough – math, physics, Python, and Java. So, I am trying to prepare myself beforehand.

“Playing billiards is one of my hobbies,” says Ramin. Photo courtesy of the subject

“Playing billiards is one of my hobbies,” says Ramin. Photo courtesy of the subject

What are your hobbies?

In my free time, I like to work on my skills and polish them. I also spend time improving my Russian language proficiency. I like reading Russian magazines and books, or watching movies. Also, I like playing billiards and hitting the gym to maintain my fitness. 

Would you like to share any advice with prospective students from Afghanistan?

I would surely recommend Russia and ITMO to everyone who wants to go for higher studies. Russia is the best country to study because they always aim to improve an individual’s technical skills and abilities.