Hi Tameem, how are you doing?

Hello, I am doing great. Thanks for inviting me to the interview today.

Awesome! Let’s begin the interview with your introduction. 

I am Tameem Maher Bourgi from Yemen, currently a first-year Bachelor’s student of mechatronics and robotics at ITMO. After finishing high school, I wanted to go to Germany for my higher education, but thanks to the recommendation of my friends, I decided to study in Russia. 

Which factors led you to choose Russia over Germany?

I wanted to explore Europe during my Bachelor’s studies. Germany is a top destination for many students, but my friends said that Russia and St. Petersburg especially are quite European, as well. Moreover, the education system here is top-notch. Financially, Russia is more convenient for students than Germany. Having lived in Russia for almost two years now, I can say that the global media often portrays Russia falsely. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people. 

Tell us something about your childhood.

I grew up in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen. I began my education in a Pakistani international school. Later because of the political unrest in Yemen, I moved to Egypt and continued my education there until 2017. I returned to Yemen to finish my schooling and started looking for options for higher education abroad. That’s when I discovered Russia and now I am at ITMO! 

Very interesting. What motivated you to study mechatronics and robotics?

As a child, I was always good at physics and mathematics. In fact, I was in love with these subjects. That love only kept growing and when I found ITMO, I was fascinated by their mechatronics and robotics program. I have always been poor at memorizing stuff. Therefore, a practical subject like this one that allows me to do stuff hands-on is pretty cool.

This is a Russian-taught program. So were you a part of the Foundation Program at ITMO, too?

No, I did my preparatory studies at Penza State Technological Academy. I lived in Penza for a year and then moved to St. Petersburg to continue my education at ITMO. 

Tameem enjoying snowfall in Russia. Photo courtesy of the subject

Tameem enjoying snowfall in Russia. Photo courtesy of the subject

Are you able to follow the classes in Russian well? 

To be honest, I'm not catching everything but I'm trying my best to perform well. I'll try to study more Russian in the summer to develop myself and get ready for the second year. 

How has your overall experience been at ITMO so far? 

The first semester was a bit of a shock for me, as I had to adapt to new rules and formats here at ITMO. The story, however, is different in the second semester. Now I am quite used to ITMO’s style and I feel at home here.

Where do you have your classes at ITMO?

I have been to almost every campus of ITMO for classes. In the first semester, I had most of my classes on the Kronverksky and Grivtsova campuses. At the Lomonosova campus, I just had my Russian language classes. In the second semester, however, the classes are evenly shared between the three campuses.

Are you living in a dormitory? 

Yes, I'm living in the dormitory on Vyazemsky Lane 5-7. It's so cool here. A lot of students from all around the world live here, making it a very interesting atmosphere. Thanks to this dorm, I got to know different cultures, people, and lifestyles. I like to get to know people, irrespective of where they are from, their culture, or their work. I like to get knowledge from people. 

What do you think about St. Petersburg?

Having lived in Penza before, I can say St. Petersburg is a much more modern and international city. Penza was a small city with mostly Russian people. It had very few foreigners and as a result, you could find authentic Russian things everywhere. St. Petersburg, on the other hand, is not only a major tourist attraction but also a study-abroad destination for international students. So, this city has a more global touch. People here are more approachable and many of them know English! Russian people are very kind and well-mannered.

What are your favorite spots to hang out in St. Petersburg? 

I really like the area near Lakhta Center. The architecture is so modern and beautiful. I also really like Nevsky Prospekt. The areas near the city center, near the Hermitage, are all my favorite. The buildings are so magnificent in these locations. It feels like you are living in a historic movie.

How did you deal with the winter here? 

There is a big difference in the weather here compared to my country. In Yemen, the lowest temperature during the winter is 9℃. Here the temperature goes below -20℃. That’s just so cold! For me, the first month in Russia was so horrible. But I didn't have anything to do besides just getting used to it. I haven’t been able to get used to it yet. It's just too cold, to be honest. I really hate it when the winter comes.

Tameem at an ice skating rink in St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy of the subject

Tameem at an ice skating rink in St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy of the subject

And what about food? Did you take a liking to Russian food?

I tried borscht, which was good. It's a good dish but, to be honest, I don’t like the food in Russia. Arabic people are quite used to food with spices and a lot of flavors. When I came to Russia, I didn't find this taste. The food here is too bland. 

There are many Arabic and Asian restaurants in St. Petersburg. Have you tried any? 

I like a Turkish restaurant called Lale. I also like an Indian restaurant called Tandoor. There’s another Arabic cafe called Al’-Karam near my dorm that I like a lot.

Great! Have you been to other cities in Russia?

Yes, I have been to Samara, Saratov, Penza, and Moscow. I have an uncle In Penza who has a car. So, during the New Year’s holidays, I explored these cities in Russia along with my uncle. It was fun! I'm planning to go to Sochi next.

Oh, that's new information! So, did your uncle play an important role in your coming to Russia for higher studies? 

Yes, he did! He's the one who convinced me the most to come to Russia. He also warned me about the cold weather but assured me that I would be fine. 

Amazing! So, what are your plans for the future? 

Talking about the future is not that easy. I get asked this question a lot. But, to be honest, I don't have an answer for this. Nobody knows what I will do after my graduation. My plan now is to succeed in my specialization and get as much knowledge as I can from ITMO. 

That’s cool. Finally, any advice for future students who want to study in Russia? 

My advice to anyone who is considering studying in Russia is to not be afraid. In the beginning, life might seem hard and exhausting, but everything will become easy and comfortable after a few weeks. When you get to know people here, and make friends, you will have fun and enjoy life in Russia. Russian people are so kind. They are not like what the media says.