Please introduce yourself to our readers.

My name is Akylzhan, and I'm a second-year Master's student specializing in information security at ITMO University. Besides studying, I work as an engineer at the Faculty of Secure Information Technologies, do research, write articles, and participate in conferences. I was born in Almaty in Kazakhstan. As a Kazakh, I grew up speaking both Russian and Kazakh.

Tell us something about your hometown.

I'm from Almaty, a city situated in a valley between beautiful mountain ranges. Winter sports are very popular in my city. I've been skating since childhood and started snowboarding in 9th grade. We experience hot summers and cold winters with a sharply continental climate. The city's name comes from two words: alma meaning apple and ata meaning grandfather. Almaty is renowned for its apple orchards and the famous Aport apple variety.

How would you describe the Kazakh people?

People in my country are warm and hospitable. They have a very welcoming and friendly attitude towards foreigners in particular.

Is the Kazakh language different from Russian?

Yes, it differs significantly. While Russian belongs to the Slavic group, Kazakh belongs to the Turkish group of languages. However, Kazakh uses the Cyrillic alphabet with nine different letters. The grammar also differs, relying more on suffixes and endings than prefixes. Interestingly, the script of the Kazakh language is being updated and in the near future, we will stop the use of the Cyrillic alphabet and switch to the Latin alphabet.

What major festivals do people celebrate in Kazakhstan?

We celebrate many festivals. My favorite national holiday is Nowruz, the Kazakh New Year. We celebrate this festival with our families, prepare the traditional dish nowruz kozhe, and welcome guests to our homes for a fun party.

“I am really thankful to ITMO for providing me with so many opportunities,” says Akylzhan. Photo courtesy of the subject

“I am really thankful to ITMO for providing me with so many opportunities,” says Akylzhan. Photo courtesy of the subject

How long have you been in Russia?

I have been here for more than five years now. I also did my Bachelor’s here at ITMO before starting my Master’s. 

How did you find out about ITMO?

My best friend introduced me to ITMO when we were searching for universities to apply to after high school.

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

I don't feel any adaptation problems. I find the subjects and communication with professors easy. The only difference from life at home is the presence of a migration card, but the Migration Office at ITMO is always ready to answer any question that I might have and assist in every situation to ensure I have a worry-free stay in St. Petersburg.

Tell us about your recent trip to your hometown.

Recently, I accompanied Marina Serova (head of ITMO’s International Students Learning and Support Center – Ed.) to Education and Career Forum Kazakhstan 2023, which was held in my hometown. We advised high school and university students on how to apply to ITMO. I also shared my experience of enrolling at ITMO through the Russian government scholarship program, Rossotrudnichestvo. I had numerous certificates from competitions, which proved to be an advantage, allowing my resume to pass the selection process and get selected for this trip. I could advise students from my hometown on how to apply and what to be prepared for. It was gratifying to see students excitedly talking about the fields they want to study. I enjoyed showing with my example that living and studying abroad is not as difficult and frightening as it may seem at first. Besides the forum, I got to see my family and meet my friends. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire trip, and I'm very grateful to ITMO for it.

Akylzhan with representatives of ITMO at Education and Career Forum Kazakhstan 2023. Photo courtesy of the subject

Akylzhan with representatives of ITMO at Education and Career Forum Kazakhstan 2023. Photo courtesy of the subject

What are your plans for the future?

I entered the Master's program by winning the National Congress for Young Scientists in spring 2022. Next year, I plan to participate in the congress again and enter a PhD program at ITMO.

What are your hobbies?

I love playing board games. My friends and I like to gather on weekends for battles to claim the title of board game champion.

Where do you live currently?

I rent a studio apartment on the red metro line because I like the area and it's easy to commute to study and work.

What do you think about St. Petersburg?

I love St. Petersburg. The city is amazing with its architecture and historic landmarks. I enjoy watching how the city preserves its heritage and the history behind it. Of course, as I am a person from the south, the cold climate is a slight inconvenience for me.

What advice would you like to give to future students?

Don't be afraid. Try, try, and try again. Because it will definitely be worth the effort.

Let’s do a quick this-or-that to end today’s interview:

  • Moscow or St. Petersburg:​

St. Petersburg, for sure. Moscow feels like a place for a business trip, not for living.

  • Blini or pelmeni:

Blini. I have a crazy sweet tooth!

  • Summer or winter:

Definitely summer. I don't like it when it's freezing outside.

  • Bus or metro:

Metro. You can't find any traffic jams on the metro, which is such a relief.

  • Museums or malls: 

Museums. I like exploring the history of this city and how well-preserved all the artifacts are.