Hi, thanks for joining us today for this interview.
Thank you so much for inviting me. It is my pleasure.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Afif. I grew up in Bhola, a remote island in Bangladesh. At the age of five, I moved to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. I have spent all my teenage years in Dhaka while finishing high school.
What do you like the most about your hometown?
Bhola is blessed with beautiful sceneries and natural resources. It is surrounded by the Bay of Bengal. My hometown is known for its amazing mangrove forests. It is also the main tourist attraction of Bhola. I would describe my hometown as very peaceful, too. The weather is hot. All round the year, we have a summer-like climate.
How would you describe Bangladeshis?
They are very amiable. When you meet a Bangladeshi, you would immediately identify their friendliness. They are also very hospitable.
What are the major festivals of Bangladesh?
Bangladesh has people from two major religious groups, namely, the Muslims and the Hindus. We celebrate the main festivals of both the cultures. For Muslims, the main festival is Eid al-Fitr and for Hindus it is Durga Puja.
Is there a traditional dish in Bangladesh that is very special to you?
I think every Bangladeshi will have the same answer. It is shorshe ilish, a dish made with hilsa fish. This dish is made with mustard oil and is one of the most popular dishes of my country. Hilsa is regarded as the national fish of Bangladesh.
Now let’s talk academics. How did decide to come and study in Russia?
It started a year ago. I have been an IT-freak since childhood and I used to copy codes from the Codeforces website. And when I found out that this platform is maintained by ITMO University, I became fascinated by it. Also, when I participated in ICPC, I met a guy from ITMO who was prolific with his skills. He completed the given tasks in less than 30 minutes while the others took more than an hour. This enhanced my respect for ITMO and I made up my mind to study here.
What was the application process like?
I applied for the Russian Government scholarship and won it. As a winner, I received a lot of support from the Rossotrudnichestvo office in Bangladesh. The procedure was pretty simple. I had to prepare a few documents, fill out the forms, and submit them on time. The rest of the work was taken care of by the representatives. It was a truly hassle-free experience.
When did you arrive in St. Petersburg?
I arrived here quite recently, approximately a month ago. The journey was very interesting. The only thing that shocked me was the difference in the temperature. All my life, I have lived in a hot climate and suddenly in St. Petersburg, I was experiencing 11℃. So, it was a pretty new and memorable experience for me.
What has been your first impression of the city?
The city is fascinating, especially with its magnificent buildings. It is heaven for people who appreciate architecture and art.
Did you meet any students from Bangladesh?
Yes, I met a guy called Arafat. He has been living here for almost a year now. He guided us and helped us with a lot of stuff, especially taking us around the city and introducing us to basic tasks like shopping for groceries and stationery; it was all of extreme help to me.
Have you had any bad experiences in Russia so far?
Not at all. On the contrary, I am surprised at the warm welcome that I have received from the locals. Since I don’t know Russian, I often find it difficult to communicate. But the locals are always eager to help me. Even if they don’t speak English, they will always use a translator app and help me.
What are you studying now?
Right now I am in the Foundation Program. I will be learning the Russian language for 1 year and then start my Bachelor’s in software engineering.
Does it feel different to study here?
Yes, it does. The system is very different to that in Bangladesh. Here, the lectures are longer but they are not boring at all. Every lesson is gamified, which keeps the students focused and eager to learn.
How does it feel to learn a new language?
It is very exciting. Russian is a difficult language but also very historic and significant. I am looking forward to learning it well.
Have you tried Russian food?
Not yet but it looks really delicious to me. I am excited to try it out!
What are your hobbies?
My hobby is exploring new things, ideas, and people. But I spend most of my free time with gadgets. I love fidgeting with them and learning about them.
Have you joined any ITMO clubs?
I did not have time to explore them yet, but I am really interested in joining a few of them. First of all, I want to join the English Speaking Club to improve my English and also make new friends. Secondly, I would like to join one of the many clubs that are involved in programing and coding.
What are your plans for the remainder of this year?
I want to visit some of the major tourist attractions in St. Petersburg and a few cities nearby. Since I love exploring, I will surely make some plans to go around Russia.
What are your expectations from ITMO?
When I applied to ITMO, my desire was to win ICPC. So, I hope ITMO prepares me well for this competition – and in the near future I could be one of the winners of this prestigious competition, as well.