Please introduce yourself to our readers

My name is Ghaith Azzam and I am from Lebanon. I came to Russia three years ago and now I am a second-year Bachelor’s student in bioengineering.

Were you a part of the Foundation Program?

Yes, for one year, I learned the Russian language at the Foundation Program. After completing that, I started my Bachelor’s program.

Tell us something about Lebanon.

Lebanon is one of the smallest Arabian countries in the Middle East. We have good food, great museums, and high-quality education. Our people are very social and friendly.

Tell us something about the family structure in Lebanon.

Family is extremely important in Lebanon. We respect family values a lot and always make an effort to keep every member of the family together. 

Are joint families common in Lebanon or are nuclear families becoming more widespread these days?

Nowadays, families are getting smaller. I have just one brother. But my mother has 2 brothers and 6 sisters! I like big families. It feels amazing to meet all my cousins during family gatherings. 

What are some of the major occasions when your family comes together?

Mostly weddings. In every Lebanese family, there is one person who either studies or works abroad, and they only come home during big celebrations like weddings. 

Looks like you are that person in your family! Did you get a chance to visit them recently?

Yes, I have been to my home recently. I visit my family every summer. Every time I visit them, it is a mix of good and weird feelings. On the one hand, I'm very happy to spend time at home, but on the other, I'm sad to leave them and return to St. Petersburg. 

How did you get interested in bioengineering?

I have been interested in biology since childhood. I wanted to understand how our bodies function at the deepest level. At the same time, I was also very good at math and was keen on engineering. So I wanted to pursue a career that would be the best of both worlds. I asked my professors for some suggestions and surfed the internet. That’s how I came across bioengineering which to me seems like a good amalgamation of the two fields.

Ghaith loves studying bioengineering, which is an interdisciplinary subject. Photo courtesy of the subject

Ghaith loves studying bioengineering, which is an interdisciplinary subject. Photo courtesy of the subject

What work does a bioengineer do?

Bioengineers can work both in labs and in industries. It depends on the individual preferences. In my third year, I will decide whether I would go for a more research-oriented career or try something that is more application-based, like robotics and AI in biotech.

Is bioengineering different from biotechnology?

At ITMO, biotechnologists are more focused on foodtech, while bioengineers deal with living things at the molecular level. Bioengineers tend to dig deeper and understand the genetic mechanisms in our cells.

What do you like the most about bioengineering?

In my first semester, I had a subject called bionics. It was the most interesting subject for me. It can be defined as an interdisciplinary subject between biology and cybernetics. Using bionics, scientists have developed highly efficient prosthetics, which I find to be super cool.

Most of my subjects are interdisciplinary like biophysics, biochemistry, etc. I also have math in my curriculum. I enjoy learning these subjects because it helps me diversify my knowledge and widen my potential.

Do you understand all your lectures in Russian?

It was very difficult for me to understand my lessons in the first year. One year of the Foundation Program was not enough to get me ready to study bioengineering in Russian. However, with time, it has started to get better. Now I can understand a lot more than I used to. I am hopeful that by the time I am in my third year, I will have an even stronger grasp of the Russian language.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to do a lot of things. I am a big admirer of art. I love fashion and I spend a lot of time learning about other cultures. I also like learning new languages. Currently, I am learning French. I had started learning it earlier, but now I have forgotten everything. So I need to refresh it all over again.

How many languages do you know?

I know English, Arabic, Russian, and French. I had studied French in my school, but it got wiped off. Now I need to regain all my French skills again. I also like music. I used to play a lot of instruments. But I haven’t been able to practice playing them for some time now. I need to go back to playing instruments once again.

“I felt a strong connection with St. Petersburg. I somehow knew, I wanted to live in this city,” says Ghaith. Photo courtesy of the subject

“I felt a strong connection with St. Petersburg. I somehow knew, I wanted to live in this city,” says Ghaith. Photo courtesy of the subject

What inspired you to study at ITMO?

I always wanted to study in St. Petersburg. I don’t know why, but I never wanted to live in Moscow. So, when I was applying, I randomly selected ITMO as my first-choice university. I don’t know why but maybe ITMO was there in my fate. It had to happen. Therefore, even without any proactive steps, I ended up getting accepted by ITMO, and now I must admit, I love it here.

You seem to love philosophy! Do you believe in destiny?

Yes, I do! I believe everything happens for a reason and everyone has a predestined path to pursue. There will be ups and downs along the way, but in the end, it will all make sense and you will reach your destination. You just need to have that faith.

My life used to be very blurry before, but since I came to St. Petersburg, everything started getting clearer and my mind started to calm down. Now my mind is focused on growth and progress. I have learned to let go of the past and go on with the flow of life.

What are your plans for the future?

As I said, I don’t like planning too much in advance. For now, I just want to complete my Bachelor’s with good grades. Probably, I will go for a Master’s after that. But I don’t know where, when, or how. We will figure it out as we go forward. I am really enjoying my present.

Any philosophical advice for new students coming to Russia?

Studying abroad is one of the best experiences that you can have in your entire life. It might be challenging and full of hurdles, but you should never give up. Once you have experienced this hardship, everything becomes very easy. At least try! Maybe you don’t like it here or you face some troubles, but it's okay. You tried your best! Life is too short to live in fear. Just go out, do your best, and enjoy the present moment. Live a happy life!