Where are you from?

I am from Malawi, a small country in East Africa. It is known as the warm heart of Africa because the people there are super friendly and hospitable. We are known to be the warmest and kindest of all people and we radiate these qualities throughout the continent. We also have the largest lake in Africa, Lake Malawi, a major tourist attraction.

Tell us something about the culture of Malawians.

Malawi is rich in cultural diversity. We have numerous ethnic groups and a variety of social values. The families are mostly extended and closely knit. We respect our elders very much and treat them with great regard and respect.

What are some of the main festivals that you celebrate in Malawi?

There are few festivals actually, but we do celebrate New Year and Christmas. While Christmas is more of a religious festival, New Year is more of a social event. During such festivities, we spend time with our friends and families. We also have a very popular cultural festival in Malawi called Mulhako wa Alhomwe. Once a year, people from different ethnic groups gather together to celebrate and have fun. There’s music, dancing, food, and laughter all around.

Talking about food, what is your favorite Malawian dish?

There are so many delicious dishes that I like. But the staple and my favorite is nsima, which is a cornmeal porridge dish. It is also considered to be the national dish of Malawi and is served with several different types of sauces.

It was great learning more about your country. Now tell us something about yourself.

I am a 26-year-old, currently pursuing a Master’s degree in public health sciences at ITMO. I completed my Bachelor’s in 2018. After graduation, I worked for a few years as a teacher. However, after 4 years, I suddenly felt like I needed to do something more. I had an urge to grow. It was then that I decided to go for another degree.

Is your program in English?

Yes, my Master’s program is taught completely in English. That’s the reason why I didn’t have to join the Foundation Program.

Why did you decide to study in Russia?

In 2022, I enrolled for my second Bachelor’s degree program in physiotherapy in India. However, I did not have a scholarship to support my basic needs and life became hard for me. So, I decided to look for full scholarship opportunities in other countries. I came across the Open Doors Russian Scholarship Project and decided to apply for it. Luckily, I won – and that is how I ended up coming to Russia.

“I was looking for a full scholarship and I found one in Russia,” says Magdalene. Photo courtesy of the subject

“I was looking for a full scholarship and I found one in Russia,” says Magdalene. Photo courtesy of the subject

How was your experience with Open Doors?

It was challenging because I had to focus on my studies while simultaneously preparing for the scholarship exam. I got only a few weeks for preparations because I had my end-of-semester exam right before the second round of Open Doors. However, I managed to take care of both. Time management was key.

What was your experience like flying from Malawi to St. Petersburg?

I was so excited about my trip to Russia. But things weren’t so smooth. When I landed in Moscow, it took me a very long time to pass the immigration and complete other procedures. Also, I had to wait for a long time to get my luggage. As a result, I missed my connecting flight to St. Petersburg. I had to purchase a new ticket and it was very expensive. Also, the lack of mobile internet made this situation tougher for me. But finally, after all those hassles, I was able to come to St. Petersburg in one piece. 

What do you think of this city?

It is marvelous. One of the most beautiful cities that I have ever seen. The scenery everywhere is so nice. I have not been to the major tourist attractions yet, but the entire city is no less attractive to tourists.

Have you been to all the campuses of ITMO?

ITMO has so many campuses! I have been to three of them – Lomo, Kron, and Chaika! I went to the Chaikovskogo campus only once to get my measles vaccine. All of the campuses are amazing. They look so modern and well-furnished. 

How do you feel about the weather here?

It is very different from the weather in my country. Of course, Russia is known for its incredible winter. But even the rain here is so much more compared to that in my country. Since the day I came to St. Petersburg, it has been raining. I have rarely seen the sun since my arrival.

Have you tried Russian food?

I haven’t tried any traditional Russian dishes yet, but I am looking forward to doing so. I have been to some of the restaurants and cafes here. The first day when I arrived here, my friend took me to a ramen shop. I tried ramen and wok on that day. I also like shawarma a lot. Whenever I eat it, one is never enough for me. I just want to keep going. 

Are you enjoying your new life as an international student here?

Yeah, I am enjoying my new life very much. I have made several new friends here. Some of them are Russian while others are from different countries. Meeting them and talking to them has expanded my perspective on life.

Magdalene attending a seminar at ITMO. Photo courtesy of the subject

Magdalene attending a seminar at ITMO. Photo courtesy of the subject

What are your plans for the future?

I am interested in research. I want to work on predicting the outbreaks of infectious diseases. After graduating from ITMO, I want to go back to my country and work for the Ministry of Health as a project manager. I want to lead several projects to improve the early detection of infectious diseases in all of Africa. Every country in the world needs it, but in Africa and especially in Malawi, the need is paramount.

Any tips for future ITMO students?

I would resonate with the tagline of Nike – just do it! As long as you are determined, you can achieve anything. Never give up! Whatever opportunities are presented to you, grab them with both hands. You only live once, make the best of it!