Hometown: St. Petersburg
Enrolled to ITMO in: 2009
Favorite Quote: If you really want something, do your best to achieve it. If you don’t do anything, then you don’t want it that much.
Hobbies: sports, dancing, traveling
Action plan: If you feel that the profession you ended up in doesn’t suit you that much, know that you can always change it. Especially if you’re young and have your whole life ahead of you. Learning foreign languages is a must: it will make studying abroad so much easier for you.
Back in school, I studied in a class that specialized in maths and physics: physics lessons were my favorite, and other techie subjects seemed a piece of cake to me compared to humanities. I didn’t really know which university to go to after I graduated, so I applied for different ones. ITMO was my parents’ alma mater, and, thanks to a happy coincidence, when I was submitting my documents to the university’s admissions office, I overheard one professor’s enthusiastic talk about a specific Bachelor’s program. I’d been considering this specialization before that, but this was the moment that decided it for me. That’s how I became a student of ITMO University’s “Technical Physics” program.
Studying at university wasn’t as hard as I expected: some subjects were ABC-level of easy, others required more effort on my part. I always prepared for end-of-term exams beforehand, so I didn’t encounter any problems with that either. Subject-wise, I really enjoyed descriptive geometry and engineering graphics.
In parallel to my studies, I was also making my first steps in my profession. The work took about 20 hours per week. It didn’t clash with my studies: I even had some free time to practice different sports, travel and learn English. At first, I worked at ITMO University, and then at a light-engineering company. I realized that I found my element when I saw that all the sketches and papers I worked on gave rise to a viable light design layout of a specific object. That really added to the enthusiasm I felt for this career, I wanted to pursue it even more.
The main sources of energy for me are sports, dancing, regular change of activities, and, last but not certainly not least, traveling with my friends and family. I’d also recommend everyone to surround themselves with optimistic, energetic and inspiring people; then the luck will always be by your side.
While working at the university, I was responsible for cooperation with our international partners. That’s how I learned about the university’s exchange programs. I could choose between Switzerland, Norway, and Finland and decided to go to Switzerland to pursue a six-month internship at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). In the beginning, it was very hard, partially because I didn’t speak a word of French. All the people around me both at the university and in the city itself spoke French. All the registration papers were in French, too, as well as my curriculum. Another problem was that back then I didn’t receive any scholarship from the university, and Switzerland is a very expensive country to live in. I came to Lausanne in the middle of the academic year, and there were no vacant places in the student dormitory, so I had to find accommodation on my own. I didn’t have a choice but to find a part-time job.
The Swiss educational system is very different from the Russian one: apart from compulsory classes, there is a list of optional courses you have to choose from at the beginning of each semester. Even though French was the main language at the university, many Master’s courses were taught in English which made life much easier for me.
It wasn’t easy to study though. Students don't usually work during term time abroad and can devote all their time to studying and teamwork. Deadlines are very tight there: if you’re supposed to complete your project before tomorrow midday, it means exactly that; otherwise, you’ll lose points. I had to study a lot of extra material, for I didn’t study certain things at ITMO. Exams are also quite different: there are no question cards, you’re just sitting in front of the teacher and answering all the questions about the entire course material they ask. However, I really enjoyed my studies there; I made a lot of friends, acquired new knowledge and gained an invaluable experience. The people were extra friendly, and we had some events and excursions organized for us.
After graduating from ITMO University, I was faced with a choice of what to do next: continue with a PhD program in Russia or go study abroad. I considered Germany, Switzerland and Australia, but in the end opted for the “Architectural Lighting Design” Master’s program at the Wismar University of Applied Sciences, Technology, Business and Design. A year of lectures and seminars were followed by a sixth-month internship, which every student had to find by themselves. I chose New York and, despite all the difficulties and a crazy pace of life, I ended up being extremely pleased with my internship experience. I spent the remaining six months of my studies in Wismar writing my thesis.
My consequent return to Germany brought new difficulties: I had to go through all the red tape needed for registering to live in the country, alone. All of the documents were in German this time, which added to my predicament. It took me time to get all this paperwork straight.
My university studies were in English, but in my current workplace, German is the main spoken language, so I had to really brush up on that when I started in this company. That’s why I opted for attending language courses after work. That doesn’t leave me with a lot of free time on my hands, but, as I like to say, my day consists of 25 hours: I can tick all the things off my daily agenda if I want to. I try to spend however little free time I get productively: each weekend, I visit a new event or go traveling.
What I’m most proud of is that I graduated from ITMO University with honors, have been on prestigious internships abroad and now live and work in Berlin. It may seem that I just got lucky, but in reality, I achieved everything on my own: I did a lot of studying, searching, and working to come to the place I am at now.
Victoria Gorelkina was originally interviewed by Kira Kryuchkova for Megabyte Media