Please introduce yourself to our readers.

My name is Abdulkareem Al-Zubaidi, a 23-year-old guy from Yemen. I arrived in Russia on September 1, 2019, to commence my higher education. I spent my first year learning the Russian language. After that, I transitioned to pursuing a Bachelor's degree in mechatronics and robotics. I am currently in the final year of my studies.

Tell us something about your hometown.

I am from Yemen, specifically from the city of Al-Mahwit. My residence is in a village called Falina, which boasts a serene atmosphere and friendly community. I received my primary and secondary education in my village before transitioning to the city. In the city, I enrolled in an institute to improve my English before moving to Russia.

What motivated you to come here, to St. Petersburg?

Well, the outstanding educational opportunities, particularly at institutions like ITMO, renowned for their expertise in programming, technology, and robotics, definitely caught my attention. Moreover, the allure of Russia's cities, notably the breathtaking architecture of St. Petersburg, captivated my interest and prompted my visit. I also wanted to learn about a new culture, which I later discovered was unique and interesting.

How did you find out about ITMO?

When I had the chance to pursue my studies in Russia, I began researching universities online to find the one that offered the specialization I was interested in. Among the numerous universities I found, ITMO stood out to me the most because of its personalized teaching methods and impressive ranking. Additionally, I sought advice from international students already studying in Russia, and they unanimously recommended ITMO as the ideal choice for me.

What has your experience of studying at ITMO been so far?

Studying at ITMO has been both fulfilling and challenging. Initially, I encountered difficulties, but as time passed I became more engaged and acquainted with the materials and things started to click. Now, nearing graduation, I've gained extensive knowledge across various domains including programming, artificial intelligence, and particularly control systems. I've undertaken numerous projects independently and collaboratively, which has greatly enhanced my skills. Currently, I'm working on my graduation project focused on adaptive control and I'm optimistic about its completion shortly.

How has your experience been learning the Russian language at ITMO’s Foundation Program?

Learning Russian at ITMO has been an incredibly enjoyable experience for me. Despite the initial challenges I faced during my first months in Russia due to the lack of my language skills, things gradually became easier. The teaching methodology employed by ITMO, particularly in Russian language classes, played a significant role in my progress. I owe a debt of gratitude to my Russian language teacher, Tatiana Mazurova, whose unique teaching approach and effective communication style greatly facilitated my learning journey.

Having lived in Russia for over four years now, Abdulkareem says he enjoys his life here greatly. Photo courtesy of the subject

Having lived in Russia for over four years now, Abdulkareem says he enjoys his life here greatly. Photo courtesy of the subject

How does it feel to live here?

I have been residing in St. Petersburg since 2019 and it has been a wonderful experience for me. I'm particularly enamored with the city's blend of historic and modern architecture, as well as its abundance of museums and cultural attractions. Admittedly, adjusting to the weather was initially challenging due to the contrast between St. Petersburg and my hometown. 

So, have you adapted to the weather here?

Yes. Initially, I encountered challenges, but as time went on, I found it easier to cope, especially by taking good care of myself and adjusting to the local conditions.

What are some of your favorite places here in St. Petersburg?

There are numerous places in St. Petersburg that I absolutely enjoy visiting, but one of my favorites is the Hermitage Museum. I highly recommend exploring it; it's truly remarkable.

What are your plans for the future?

As I mentioned earlier, I'm currently in the final year of my Bachelor's degree, and I have some definite plans for the near future. I aspire to pursue a Master's degree in robotics and artificial intelligence. While I'm uncertain about where exactly I'll end up, I want to continue my studies at ITMO if given the opportunity. Simultaneously, I aim to gain practical experience by working in a company where I can apply the knowledge I've acquired and witness its real-world impact. Although I have many plans, these are my immediate goals for the near future.

What do you do in your free time?

I'm an avid football enthusiast. I enjoy watching matches and playing football, whether it's with friends or participating in ITMO’s championship organized by ITMO KronBars twice a year. Additionally, I like to explore beautiful places around the city with my friends.

Abdulkareem’s travels in Russia aren’t limited to St. Petersburg – here, he is seen on a trip to historic Veliky Novgorod. Photo courtesy of the subject

Abdulkareem’s travels in Russia aren’t limited to St. Petersburg – here, he is seen on a trip to historic Veliky Novgorod. Photo courtesy of the subject

Any advice for future ITMO students?

For future ITMO students, especially those coming from abroad, my advice is not to be swayed by negative opinions about the university. There may be discouraging remarks suggesting that ITMO is exceptionally challenging and that enjoying your study time here is impossible. However, I've found these assertions to be baseless.

I, too, encountered such intimidating talk initially, but I chose to persevere and discovered that it was all unfounded. It's essential to manage your time effectively and prioritize tasks. Don't hesitate to seek help from your professors if you encounter difficulties. Following these practices will not only make your studying experience more manageable but will also propel you further in your academic journey.

Let’s end today’s interview with a round of rapid-fire questions.

  • Moscow or St. Petersburg? 

St. Petersburg has to be the winner out of the two. I love this city the most!

  • What is your favorite season in Russia? 

Summer – the most enjoyable season in Russia. 

  • Any place in Russia that you really want to visit?   

Sochi. It has been my dream place to visit for a long time.

  • Which app do you use the most in Russia? 

Anything by Yandex. I have been using almost every Yandex app since I arrived in Russia.