Please tell us something about yourself.

My name is Raed Nasser and I am from the city of Al-Sweida in Syria. I have been studying here at ITMO for two years now and I recently got my Master's degree in laser technologies.

What do you like the most about your country?

There are numerous things to like about my country. First of all, its nature! Syria is known for its mountainous terrain. The weather there is great, especially in spring. Secondly, I really like our traditional food. It is really delicious.

What are some of the best places to visit in your country?

Every city in Syria has lots of beautiful places to visit: for example, in Damascus, there are Souq Al-Hamidiyah, the old city of Damascus, and Mount Qasioun – which offers a great view of the city. We also have beautiful old castles and mosques in Damascus and Aleppo, small towns around Damascus, like Bloudan, Maaloula, and Saidnaya. In my city, Al-Sweida, you can also visit a few monuments of the Roman Empire in Qanawat, Shahba, and Salkhad.

How would you describe the people of your country?

I believe that Syrian people are kind, generous, and reliable. They are always ready to help you with anything and everything.

Do you have a favorite traditional food from your country?

Of course! Lots of traditional dishes, actually. I can list some of my favorites: mansaf al-melehi, moghrabieh, maqluba, kabsa, and yaprak. We also have lots of delicious traditional desserts like kunafa, baklava, and shaabiyat – I like them all.

Raed with his red (honors) diploma on the day of his graduation. Photo courtesy of the subject

Raed with his red (honors) diploma on the day of his graduation. Photo courtesy of the subject

Why did you decide to study in Russia?

For multiple reasons, actually. Russia has several leading universities in my field of study, including ITMO. So, it was quite a logical decision for me to study here. I am really glad that I made it. I met a lot of professionals here and learned a lot from them. Additionally, when I started learning the Russian language, I loved it! I got really excited to learn more about Russian culture and to visit as many Russian cities as I could.

What do you like the most about St. Petersburg?

Well, the city is great. Every time I visit a new place, I am amazed by its beauty in all seasons. You can always find exciting places like museums, cathedrals, and parks. My favorite places are the parks, especially the big ones.

What apps did you install on your phone when you first traveled to Russia?

I needed to install many apps that I didn't use before such as those by Yandex like Maps, Weather, Metro, as well as VK, some bank apps, and of course the my.itmo app (also available on iOS).

Do you like Russian food?

Yes, I do! I have tried different dishes that were totally new to me. My favorites are plov, borscht, and solyanka. In the dessert section, medovik and Napoleon cake share the title of my all-time best dessert.

Do you have a favorite restaurant to eat at in St. Petersburg?

Not really. Generally, I like all the restaurants that I went to, but I don't think I have a favorite one.

Let’s do a round of rapid-fire questions:

  1. Metro or bus: bus, because you can enjoy some stunning landscapes while traveling.

  2. Borscht or solyanka: solyanka. It is just delicious! 

  3. Google Maps or Yandex Maps: Yandex Maps. Its accuracy is unmatched. Also, the interface is really cool and user-friendly.

  4. Summer or fall in St. Pete: summer. The best time to explore St. Petersburg. White nights during summer are indeed a magical experience. 

“Russia never fails to impress me! It is indeed a majestic country,” says Raed. Photo courtesy of the subject

“Russia never fails to impress me! It is indeed a majestic country,” says Raed. Photo courtesy of the subject

What are your hobbies?

I love music. I like listening to many different kinds of it. I am also into sports and fitness. I never miss a session of gym training, running, etc. I enjoy watching football matches and YouTube videos during my free time.

What are your plans for the future?

I have already applied for a PhD here at ITMO. Soon I am going to be a first-year PhD student in the same field of study – laser technologies.

Would you like to share any advice based on your own experiences?

Of course, first of all, I advise any student who is planning to come to Russia to learn the basics of the language. It was a great help to me. Not just because you need it in different situations, but also because it will make you feel comfortable and confident while talking to people.

Regarding studies, just believe in yourself. Keep up the hard work to get the best result. If you need help, just ask! You will surely find great people who will always be ready to help you.