Hello Javed, thanks for meeting with me today.

Thanks for your time, I was waiting for a long time to do this interview.

Without any further ado, let’s start this interview with a brief introduction of yours.

Sure, why not? I'm Jawed Bahshari from Afghanistan. I was born in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan but I spent my childhood in the capital city, Kabul. I've completed my Bachelor's degree at one of the best and most prestigious universities in my country, Kardan University. My specialization is in computer science and database management systems (DMBS). 

That's so cool. What made you interested in this field? 

Computer science is a diverse field with numerous sub-fields. DBMS grabbed my attention the most because of its vast application in everyday life. These systems are used everywhere, from grocery stores to social media sites. I also made my own DBMS system with advanced commercial applications that is now being used by several companies in Afghanistan.

Very interesting. Could you shed some more light on your project?

What started as a university project has now grown into my startup as I continued adding more functionalities to it. My product is now being used by several hotel agencies, tourism companies, wedding planners, and so on. It feels great to be able to build something that adds value to society and I want to keep doing it forever. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to pursue higher education in Russia.

What are you studying at ITMO?

Currently, I am a first-year Master’s student in business informatics where I am learning advanced skills in DBMS, automation, analytics, and business skills.

Seems like the curriculum of this program is well-matched to your interests.

Pretty much so! This program is building upon the foundation that I already had and is giving me several advanced skills. I am very happy and satisfied with the curriculum.

The program is offered in the Russian language. Are you able to grasp every concept well?

I had a year-long preparatory course before commencing my Master’s program, where I learned the Russian language. The teachers were very efficient and thanks to them, I have a decent proficiency in the language. I can understand my lectures well and complete assignments without trouble.

What inspired you to study in Russia?

It is well-known that Russia is one of the most beautiful countries, rich with cultural history. Also, its unique position, spanning both Europe and Asia, makes it a compelling environment for international students who are seeking a diverse cultural experience alongside academic excellence. Russia also offers various scholarships for international students, making it an economical and attractive option for students abroad. Additionally, learning Russian is a valuable skill, opening up further opportunities in the region. Several multinational companies also have ties with Russia and they need people who have experience with Russian people. 

And why ITMO?

ITMO is one of the most popular universities not only in St. Petersburg or Russia but in the entire world. It is particularly famous for its success in international programming competitions, such as ICPC (International Collegiate Programming Contest). ITMO students have consistently performed well on the global stage and brought many accolades to the institution. ITMO also offers a variety of programs not only in IT but also in photonics, robotics, and quantum communications which is awesome!

How long have you been in St. Petersburg?

I have been living here for almost two years now and it has been so great. It's surely a new experience for me to live in a foreign country but I have enjoyed my time thoroughly. St. Petersburg is a magical city with its special white nights that start in May and end in August. I am also a big fan of the Scarlet Sails event that celebrates the graduation of school children. How cool is that! A beautiful fireworks display and a show involving a big ship with scarlet sails sailing along the Neva River is simply a fairy tale. 

Was it difficult to adapt to the climate here?

Not really because St. Petersburg’s weather is not very strange to me. My hometown in Afghanistan also has a similar cold climate. So, it was comparatively easier for me to adapt to Russian winter. Undoubtedly, it is colder, but my body got used to it well.

What modes of transportation do you usually use in the city?

I prefer to travel by bus. Metro is also a good option but you can enjoy the beautiful city of St. Petersburg when traveling by bus. Occasionally, I also use kicksharing but only when there’s no snow or rain.

Do you like Russian food?

Whenever you visit a new country, always try their food. It is an essential cultural component of every country. I really like borscht with smetana, pelmeni, and blini. 

Do you have a favorite restaurant in St. Petersburg?

There’s one place on the way in between ITMO and my dormitory where I enjoy eating a lot. It is called Rostic’s (A Russian fast food chain specializing in fried chicken – Ed.

Which dormitory are you living in?

I live in ITMO’s dormitory located on Vyazemsky Lane 5-7.  I haven’t visited ITMO’s other dormitories but to me, this one is top-class! It is quite neat with all the necessary amenities. The ambiance inside the dorm is very peaceful and relaxing as well. Many international students live here, making the environment very diverse and energetic.

“St. Petersburg is a beautiful city and I really enjoy living here,” says Jawed. Photo courtesy of the subject

“St. Petersburg is a beautiful city and I really enjoy living here,” says Jawed. Photo courtesy of the subject

Have you been to any other city in Russia?

I have only been to Moscow once while I was transiting to St. Petersburg. But I have plans to travel later this year. I am very eager to visit Kazan, which is known as the 3rd capital of Russia. The Republic of Tatarstan is a very interesting region and I can’t wait to explore it.

What other plans do you have for the future?

After graduating from my Master’s program, I would like to enhance and launch more startups. My goal is to become a successful entrepreneur, probably in Russia itself. Honestly, I see myself staying here long-term.

That’s wonderful. Do you have any advice for future ITMO students?

I would like to emphasize the importance of constant efforts. Every student coming to Russia must remember to practice small sustainable routines instead of phases of high-energy actions that are not sustainable. Small everyday efforts become long-term habits, which is key to success. Always focus on consistency and sustainability to achieve long-term goals.