Why did you choose this degree?

The stereotype of a programmer sitting in a room alone and coding all day is actually very far from reality and very few developers work alone. In addition to technical skills, you need to be a great communicator and team player. When you’re studying software engineering you will be usually challenged to troubleshoot, allowing you to immerse yourself in a constant process of creation and learning, which is amazing.

How did you become a student at ITMO University and why did you choose this program?

I won a scholarship competition organized by the federal agency Rossotrudnichestvo in Turkey. The biggest factor in winning the scholarship was my high-grade point average in high school and being very active in social activities. If you are candid in the interview after submitting the required documents, it will be easier for you to get the scholarship. I learned about the scholarship from a friend.

I chose ITMO because for my degree the facilities here are second to none. There’s a wide range of courses logically organized and you can build your own educational track. Every subject includes interaction with professors and students, and in addition to theory, we do a lot of practical work in the lab.

What can you tell us about your background? What did you do before coming to Russia?

Before coming here, I was studying medicine in Macedonia, but I felt that this was not the career I wanted to pursue and if I continued, I would be unhappy – so I dropped out of the university later on.

Have you decided to study online or offline?

I decided to study in-person but I came to Russia a little bit late, so I had to stay in quarantine for a few weeks. Therefore, I continued my classes online, but sadly now that my quarantine is over, St.Petersburg universities are transferring their students to distance learning until February 6, 2021.

Uğur Bayar. Photo courtesy of author
Uğur Bayar. Photo courtesy of author

Was it hard to get used to changes in your life?

When it comes to the weather, it wasn't that hard for me because I was used to such weather conditions. But the Russian language is still the hardest challenge for me to overcome. I hope it gets better. I have difficulties in Russia because I come from a very diverse and different country in terms of food, but I think I can get used to it over time. 

What were your first days in Russia like?

My first day in Russia was a complete nightmare because my luggage was stolen by a taxi driver. Fortunately, a few young Russians and the police helped me a lot in this process. The police officer even used Google Translate to communicate with me.

What has surprised you the most about St.Petersburg?

I love St. Petersburg for its incredible history! There’s a huge number of beautiful cathedrals and museums here, even a Museum of Vodka. I consider this city one of the jewels of Europe, and the wide range of transportation makes it easy to get around.

Uğur Bayar. Photo courtesy of author
Uğur Bayar. Photo courtesy of author

What do people in your country think about Russia? 

People in Turkey usually think positively about Russia. Since the two countries are very close to each other geographically, you can get a preview of the Russians from the eight million tourists that come every year. Russian people seem to be a bit cold at first, but once you get to know them, you’ll realize that actually they aren’t cold people at all, they are kind, helpful, very sincere, and loyal friends.

Is there anything you miss about your hometown?

Every morning when I wake up, I miss my cat wagging its tail and inviting me to play with it and, of course, I miss the warm atmosphere of my home with my family.

What are your hobbies? What do you like to do besides study?

My hobbies are dancing, especially to Latin music, traveling, and camping. But since the start of my classes at ITMO, I’ve only had time for dancing and haven't had a chance to dedicate myself to the other things that I love.

What did you expect to get at ITMO? And what are your plans for the future?

Considering that I didn’t know what to expect, I would say that my expectations were vastly exceeded. I began my first year without any inkling of what was truly in store for me or what software engineering was really about. I knew only about some first-year projects in coding, programming, and advanced math.

My goal at the university is to be academically successful and to be as active as possible socially, in order to accomplish my biggest dream – to travel the world and experience the cultures of different countries. Fortunately, thanks to software engineering, I will be both financially comfortable and able to do what I love while traveling.

Any advice for other international students who want to come to Russia? 

I’d say that the quality of instruction here is beyond average, and ITMO University provides a wide range of opportunities to everyone. There are exchange opportunities, internship offers with the best companies abroad or in Russia, school activities, sports. It is simply special and unique. Be on time and respect deadlines. Be open-minded to experience the Russian way of living and get ready for the cold winter. Everybody here is more than helpful, and the rest is up to you!

Interview by Juan Sebastian Velasquez Acevedo