Let’s break the ice with a brief introduction of yours.
I am Soumaïla Camara, an international PhD student who just graduated from ITMO this year. My specialization track was 2.4.8 – Machines, Devices, and Processes of Cryogenic and Refrigeration Systems.
Where are you from?
I come from Mali, located in West Africa. It is a large country with an area of more than 1,241,000 km2. Mali has a long history and was once one of the largest empires in West Africa. It comprises several ethnic groups and the people here speak more than a dozen languages. However, the working language is French. Mali houses one of the world’s oldest universities, the University of Timbuktu.
What are some of the best places to visit in your country?
Which traditional dish from your country do you crave often?
Do you have any family traditions that have been passed down through generations?
Of course, the main elements of such traditions are based on respect and solidarity within the family. Respect for the elders and respect for the stranger are the main virtues that have been passed on.
Talking about academics, why did you decide to study in Russia?
This is an opportunity that offered itself to me and several other Malians. Over the years, many of my countrymen have been trained in the former USSR and the Russian Federation. Naturally, I was also intrigued by the idea of being trained in this country.
What was it like doing a PhD at ITMO?
PhD studies are mainly based on individual work. The only key is courage and diligence. The process of doing a PhD can be very stressful but it must be enjoyed.
Did you receive financial support during your PhD studies?
I never received any financial support during my PhD studies at ITMO. However, there are scholarship opportunities that PhD students can check out for themselves.
What are your plans now?
I intend to go back to Mali and work there. I would like my modest contribution to have a significant impact on the education sector of my country.
Do you wish to return to Russia in the future?
For now, I want to live in my country, Mali. But never say never. Maybe, in the future, I might consider it.
What do you like the most about St. Petersburg?
It is a historical and clean city. I especially liked the abundance of parks scattered all around it. I spent many hours strolling in those parks, especially during the fall season.
How much Russian have you learned already?
I think I have sufficient knowledge of Russian. It’s not that great yet but enough to communicate with my peers and some locals.
What are your favorite Russian dishes?
I am a big fan of Russian soups. They are pretty unique and extremely delicious. Borscht, solyanka, and schi are all my favorites.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I am really interested in political debates and documentary films. Whenever I have some leisure time, I spend it watching documentaries or debates on the internet.
Any advice for future PhD students at ITMO?
Remember the keywords – determination and hard work. With these two virtues, you will always be able to succeed, no matter what.
Let's end the interview with a quick rapid-fire:
Nevsky Prospekt or Lakhta Center:
Nevsky. It is a street that is lively all the time. I really enjoy the musical atmosphere there.
Lomonosova campus or Kronverksky campus:
The Lomonosova campus. I have spent most of my time here and it is indeed very cozy. The classrooms here are also very modern and equipped with all the latest technologies.
Fall or winter in Russia:
Fall. I really love the beautiful colors of the leaves all around the city. It is magical.