Let’s begin today’s interview with your introduction.

Hello, my name is Peter Simwanza, I am a third year Bachelor’s student at ITMO. I come from an African country called Zambia, which is situated in between Central, South and East Africa.

What do you like the most about your country?

I like my country because it is where my family and friends are. Zambia is a developing nation with a large reserve of natural resources. My country is also well-known for its wildlife, which includes lions, leopards, elephants, and giraffes. Our culture is also quite unique and interesting. 

How would you describe the people of Zambia?

I would say, in general, we are really happy and joyful people, kind-hearted and generous. We are also very curious and open to learning new things. It is difficult to generalize a population, but at large, Zambians love to enjoy every bit of their lives to the fullest.

Is there a traditional Zambian dish that reminds you of home? 

Oh yes! The dish is called nshima. It is a staple in Zambia, made with maize. It is always eaten with a side dish, which can be vegetables or chicken or beef. Often, you will find all the three (nshima, vegetables, and chicken/beef) together, making it a very wholesome meal. I really miss this dish, particularly the one made by my mother.

What are the major festivals of Zambia?

The festival that is celebrated with great pomp and show is called Kuomboka. It takes place at the end of the rainy season to commemorate the move of the Lozi people from their homes at Lealui in the Barotse Floodplain of the Zambezi River to Limulunga on higher ground. The return is also celebrated with less hype, which is called the Kufuluhela.

Now let’s talk about academics. What are you studying at ITMO?

I am doing my Bachelor’s in electrical engineering, which is a subject area within the program Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

What got you interested in electrical engineering?

From a very tender age I had a great interest in electronic devices and gadgets. Most of it is thanks to my father, who used to be the one to fix any faulty electrical appliance at home. I remember gazing at my father fixing a light bulb in awe as a child, having no idea how my father managed to do something so impossible! As I grew up, my father started taking me along and there began my exploration of every tool and instrument that was present in the garage. 

Another reason was the poor quality of energy generation in Zambia. Power cuts are so frequent in my country. Sitting in complete darkness, one day I thought of solving this issue in Zambia once and for ever. That ignited within me the urge to study well and learn all the skills necessary to realize my dream.

“One of my main reasons for studying electrical engineering is to improve the energy sector in Zambia,” says Peter. Photo courtesy of the subject

“One of my main reasons for studying electrical engineering is to improve the energy sector in Zambia,” says Peter. Photo courtesy of the subject

Why did you select Russia as the destination for higher education?

My decision was mostly driven by the opportunities that are available to students in Russia. It is undoubtedly a developed country with one of the best education systems in the world. The language is a challenge, but it is something that we can learn. Moreover, the living conditions here are also pretty awesome. Therefore, I will never regret my decision to study in Russia.

How does it feel to be an international student at ITMO?

Honestly, it felt a bit weird in the first few months, but once I settled in, got accustomed to the culture, adapted to the weather, and made new friends, it became a lot more enjoyable. Of course, I never feel at home, but that’s alright.

How do you feel about the quality of education at ITMO?

Most of the teachers at ITMO are very considerate and caring, especially towards international students. They make sure that we are on the same page and not left behind. During lectures and lab work, they pay extra attention to us. That makes the overall learning experience so much better, as if it is tailored for every individual.

Were you a part of the Foundation Program?

Yes, I was, but not at ITMO. I did my preparatory course online at the Saint Petersburg State University of Industrial Technologies and Design.

How long have you been in St. Petersburg?

I am almost about to complete two years in this city.

How does it feel to live here?

I would repeat myself and say that I don’t regret taking the decision to study in St. Petersburg. It is a very beautiful city. It has a great blend of modern and historic elements. The people here are also very nice.

Have you adapted to the weather here?

When I traveled from Zambia to Russia, it was November. My country was still experiencing a warm climate, but it was extremely cold here in St. Petersburg. My body received a massive shock on that day. However, over two years, I have now adapted to this climate much better. Apart from the terrible winter, I would say, Russian weather is quite enjoyable.

After spending two years in Russia, Peter has finally adapted to the weather in St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy of the subject

After spending two years in Russia, Peter has finally adapted to the weather in St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy of the subject

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

I can’t say that I have moved around a lot here, but I certainly have some places particularly close to my heart. The Peter and Paul Fortress is one of my favorites. I am also very excited to visit Peterhof. I have seen pictures of it and it is absolutely beautiful. Also, the Hermitage, which is one of the most iconic places here.

What are your plans for the future?

Oh, this is something that keeps me awake at night! I haven’t decided yet whether to study for a Master’s or go back home to do a job. I am still 50-50 on both, but I am leaning towards gaining some work experience before starting my Master’s. I might return to Russia for my Master's, but that’s not a guarantee yet.

Also, simultaneously, I wish to complete an additional certification course in programming because it is the buzzword in today’s world and having a stronghold on many programming languages definitely opens up more opportunities in the job market.

What do you do in your free time?

I play table tennis. I am a huge fan of this sport and I really enjoy playing it. I also like reading. I am not saying that I am a bookworm, but I do spend some time reading. Also, I like taking a stroll outside with my friends sometimes.

Any advice for future ITMO students?

I would share what comes to my mind right away. If you are up for the grind, then this is the perfect place for you to shine. Here, you will find the best environment and people to elevate your career and take you to the next level, but you must be ready to put the shift in. No pain, no gain!

Let’s end today’s interview with a quick questionnaire.

  • Your dream destination in Russia: Sochi. I have heard so many interesting stories about this city. So, I would like to explore it one day.

  • A misconception about Russia you had before coming here: I thought that Russians are not friendly. But now I have realized that they might look rigid from the outside, but once you get to know them personally and interact with them, you will realize that they are quite friendly.

  • A Russian word you’ve used a lot since coming here: I don’t know if it counts or not, but I find myself using the word вот a lot these days.

  • What would you take home as a souvenir from Russia: Anything related to ITMO. Probably some merch from ITMO.STORE.