For this interview, we reached out to Master’s students at the School of Computer Technologies and Control Anna Korkunova, Olga Khramova, and Alexander Vinichenko. The three of them are not only participants of ITMO.Megabattle, but also members (current and former) of their school’s initiative group. 

What is ITMO.Megabattle? 

Anna: You might have heard that Megabattle (or MB for short) is a competition. And yes, formally, it is one: there are points you earn, team rankings, nominations, runners-up, and only one winner. But first and foremost, Megabattle is people. It is made for people, by people.

However, if we are being very formal, MB is a number of events, from small to major ones, held at ITMO as part of a university-wide tournament between ITMO’s five schools (the biggest structural units in ITMO’s academic structure; see here – Ed.). 

What are the stages of Megabattle?

Olga: ITMO.Megabattle includes several stages that differ between the fall and spring semesters. In both semesters, you’ve got the MegaQuiz (a quiz for teams) and the Gala, which is by far the largest event of the whole project. It typically takes teams about a month to prepare for the Gala, and the number of people it involves grows every year. 

In the spring semester, apart from MegaQuiz and the Gala, there are also the MegaGame sports contest, the MegaQuest, which covers all campuses, and the Minecraft Event. 

Anna: Each semester also includes a trip to Yagodnoe, as well as ITMO.Punchline, a stand-up contest. And many events are added to the program along the way, too. We should also note that the majority of events in the fall semester are focused on first-year students (this will be specified for each event), while in the spring semester students of all years can join in. Students of each school score points for their performance in these events – later, these points help determine the winner. 

Why should students join it?

Alexander: Megabattle is not just about winning. Yes, in the end there is a team that will get the cup, but your greatest memories and emotions are made in the process. It is an incredible experience: you can express your creativity (as an actor, singer, dancer, playwright, or director) and your technical expertise (as a sound or lighting engineer), as well as boost all kinds of soft skills. 

Also, Megabattle is a big community where you can meet new friends and just hang out with interesting people.

Anna: You join, first of all, for all the emotions and new people. But it is also your chance to try your hand at something new, showcase your talent, gain some new experiences (that you can then use to get an enhanced stipend!) – and just become a part of the close-knit MB family.

A performance at Megabattle Gala 2023. Credit: ITMO Media Portal

A performance at Megabattle Gala 2023. Credit: ITMO Media Portal

Can it still be fun for someone with limited knowledge of Russian?

Alexander: Anyone can join, the main thing is your interest in the event! Everyone at MB is very open to new people. Even if your Russian language is still fledgling, this has never hindered the fun or the understanding. 

To become a part of MB, you just need to visit the first meeting of your ITMO school, where you’ll learn all you need to know. Alternatively, you can DM the students responsible for MB at your school – I guarantee that they’ll be happy to fill you in.

Olga: It’s also good to follow ITMO.Megabattle on VK, as well as the initiative group (актив in Russian) of your school, who will post info about any upcoming MB meetings and events. 

What do participants need to do? Is it possible to join without any prior experience?

Olga: At the first meeting of your school or faculty, you will learn about the existing positions and roles. They are usually quite diverse: for instance, for the Gala, teams need actors, dancers, singers, and all sorts of behind-the-scenes specialists, from sound engineers to makeup artists.

It’s okay if you haven’t done anything similar before – the organizers will gladly teach and assist you. The main thing is your motivation.

Alexander: You should do what you want to do. You can dance, sing, or just play Minecraft. And if you think that you lack experience, you will find help and support from your team – just don’t be afraid to try something new and learn more about yourself.

Can students join at any time?

Olga: Yes! In the fall semester, rehearsals for the Gala start in October-November – that’s the height of the season, when we especially await new participants.

Alexander: Note that it will be challenging to join an event that’s a day away, but the good news is that there’s a plethora of activities throughout the year that you can be part of. And you can always join the initiative group of your school, who participate in and help organize these events.

Field trip to Yagodnoe, summer 2023. Credit: Amina Aleeva / ITMO Media Portal

Field trip to Yagodnoe, summer 2023. Credit: Amina Aleeva / ITMO Media Portal

How much time does it take to participate in all the events? Does it interfere with studies?

Anna: The majority of MB activities are one-time events (of course, if you are not the one organizing them): field trips to Yagodnoe last 1.5 days, while quests and quizzes take mere hours. It’s different with the Gala, where you will have to spend hours on regular rehearsals. However, if you are on friendly terms with time management, you can definitely combine it with your studies. Personally, I was a high-achieving student – and an active MB participant. I also know people who have been “megabattling” for years, all while studying and having a job!

Alexander: Naturally, it takes time, but you can always decide how much of it you are willing to contribute – and how much time you need to excel at your classes. For instance, if you are an actor, you’d have to rehearse every day, but if you are responsible for costumes, you will definitely require less time to prepare. And you need no preparation at all for MegaQuiz or MegaQuest. 

For an outsider, Megabattle looks like a rather exclusive community. Is it true?

Olga: It may seem that way because we do love each other’s company – and you’ll rarely see MB participants apart at the university! But this doesn’t mean we are not open to new members on the team. If you like it at MB, you will gain some unforgettable experiences and warm memories of your student years.

Anna: MB is indeed its own community, not unlike those at ITMO’s labs, but it truly is very welcoming. Each school is happy to have active and driven students. Don’t be afraid to try – you will definitely find something cool to do – and someone great to hang out with. Also, you remain a part of the MB family even after you stop being a participant or an organizer, not unlike how you never stop being a part of ITMO.Family even after graduation!

A performance at ITMO.Punchline. Credit: Semion Danshin, ITMO Media Portal

A performance at ITMO.Punchline. Credit: Semion Danshin, ITMO Media Portal

Share your favorite memory from Megabattle.

Anna: Once, we had a mix-up and showed up for rehearsal at the wrong campus! Realizing this was epic – just as epic as our journey from Lomo to Kronverksky at the speed of light. Never in my years as a student have I ever made this trip in just 27 minutes!

Olga: My brightest memory is of how I first joined Megabattle. My friends kept pleading with me to participate, but I just didn’t consider myself that creative. I didn’t know what I would even do there. I finally decided to succumb to their pleas out of mere interest – I wanted to try something new. And just like that, the next semester I was part of my faculty’s initiative group, organizing the trip to Yagodnoe. Turns out, what matters is not your professional skills, but your teamwork and desire to help and have a great time.

Alexander: I remember how a few years ago, I signed up for the Gala as a dancer, a play extra, a playwright, and a director. That year, we didn’t come first, but we had a great team where everyone was doing what they loved. And it was that moment after we’d just performed on stage, we were all running back to the backstage corridor, each of us realizing that after a month of rehearsals we did everything perfectly, and we were all grinning at each other – those feelings are unforgettable. I remember how I was just euphorically jumping up and down among my very close friends… This memory warms up my heart every time.