Hello, thanks for joining me for the interview today.

Hi, thank you for the invitation. My pleasure!

Where are you from?

I am from Gaziantep in Turkey. It is located in the westernmost part of Turkey's Southeastern Anatolia Region and partially in the Mediterranean Region. The city was earlier known as Aintab, but later the name was changed, just like there are talks of renaming India to Bharat. My hometown is well-known for its food and old buildings.

Super interesting! So, you are on an exchange at ITMO, right?

Yes, that’s right. But I came here last semester (August 30, 2023). Initially, the plan was for a six-month exchange, but I extended it to one year.

What motivated you to continue studying at ITMO?

My friends here made me stay! My Latvian roommate and Chinese friend made me change my mind and stay here. Of course, ITMO played a massive role in it, too. The classes here are very interesting and beneficial for my career. Also, I am learning Russian and I don’t want it to be in vain.

Wow, that’s impressive. So what are you studying at ITMO?

I am a student of information security. I’m in the final year of my Bachelor’s, but I often study with first-year Master’s students. It is a strange but interesting experience. 

What were you studying back at home?

In Turkey, I was studying electronic engineering. But I had control systems and information security in the final year’s curriculum. So, it’s not like I transitioned to a very different program. 

So, how did you get to know about ITMO’s exchange program?

Our university advertised ITMO and its exchange program on its social media pages. I was already planning to do a semester exchange through the Erasmus program, but when I got to know about ITMO, I decided to apply for this one too. 

I was already accepted by Erasmus for their exchange program, but when ITMO accepted me, I rejected Erasmus and came to ITMO.

“My friends at ITMO made me extend my exchange program by one more semester,” says Alperen. Photo courtesy of the subject

“My friends at ITMO made me extend my exchange program by one more semester,” says Alperen. Photo courtesy of the subject

Wow, that’s really inspiring. So, how are you feeling in St. Petersburg?

Really amazing! I still remember the day I landed in St. Petersburg. I was welcomed by my ITMO Buddy Mariam and as soon as I stepped outside the airport, I was mesmerized by this beautiful city. Ever since that day, I have loved every moment of my life in St. Petersburg.

By the way, my buddy, Mariam, is currently on a semester exchange in China. 

Did you face any challenges here?

Nothing besides the harsh winter. Nearly a month ago, the weather was really bad. I could barely walk in the streets because of the slippery ice accumulated on the roads. It makes walking quite dangerous.

Right. Walking on snow and ice is a risky task indeed. How did you adapt to the climate?

Although I love winter, surviving it here is quite a challenge. Mostly because my hometown is a very hot place and my body is still not accustomed to such cold temperatures.

Have you been traveling in and around St. Petersburg?

Of course. I have not only been to several places in St. Petersburg, but also to other nearby cities along with my Indian friend. I also wanted to join the Buddy System’s trip to Veliky Novgorod, but I couldn’t because we had to wake up very early and I am not quite an early riser.

Did you try Russian cuisine?

Well, it's quite interesting. My buddy took me to Teremok (a Russian fast-food chain specializing in traditional cuisine – Ed.) on the first day I arrived in St. Petersburg. I had borscht, but I was quite surprised to see smetana (I mistook it for yogurt that day) in my soup. However, now I am much more familiar with Russian food. I like blinis a lot. 

Besides Russian cuisine, I have also tried a lot of other cuisines such as Indian, Vietnamese, Uzbek, and Chinese.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to exercise, hit the gym, and play sports in my free time. I have a gym in my dorm, which makes it very easy for me to work out regularly. I also love boxing and rowing.

Alperen with his friends at a sports event. Photo courtesy of the subject

Alperen with his friends at a sports event. Photo courtesy of the subject

So, are you staying at the dorm on Vyazemsky Lane 5-7?

Yes, I live in that dorm with my Latvian roommate. I am so lucky to have him as my roommate. He is an amazing guy. In a span of a few months, we have become really close to each other. I visited his home with him. Latvia is a very beautiful country indeed.

So nice! What are your plans for the future?

I am not sure yet. Maybe I will go for a Master’s degree at ITMO or in a different country. Alternatively, I can also take up military service in my country and serve for a few years. Let’s see what life has in store for me.

And finally, what advice do you have for students who want to study in Russia?

It is an opportunity that you shouldn’t miss. Grab it with both hands. You will not regret your decision. But be prepared for everything, especially the winter. Buy good clothes and equipment in advance.