Why did you decide to do the Master's degree in Information Security?

I'm getting a Master's degree in Information Security. I have always been interested in computer security, and this program focuses on training professionals in cybersecurity. Here students acquire competencies in different topics and issues of information security and other promising fields of science and technology, multi-agent systems, cryptosystems, and intelligent systems.

How did you become a student at ITMO University? 

I won a scholarship provided by a Colombian state entity named Icetex and the Russian federal agency Rossotrudnichestvo. I learned about this opportunity thanks to the 2018 World Cup, when  I heard a lot about Russia, and I began to look for information about opportunities to get an education here. I met the application deadline for the scholarship and gathered all the documents and translations. To have a better chance of winning the scholarship, it’s important to have obtained good grades in your Bachelor’s degree.

Before choosing my university in Russia, I checked the rankings and realized that ITMO is one of the best universities not only in Russia, but in the world, if we refer to the fields of technology, programming, and IT. Additionally, you can choose several specializations during your studies, which allows you to adjust your research to your liking.

What was your educational path before joining ITMO?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Systems Engineering from ‘Fundación Universitaria del Area Andina’, a Colombian University located in Bogota, the country’s capital. 

Was it difficult to obtain all the documents necessary to come here?

My first contact with ITMO was with the International Office; they helped me with all my troubles, such as deadlines and the necessary documents. The process of obtaining the visa was very easy, you only need the invitation from your university, which goes directly to the Russian Embassy in Colombia, your passport, and some medical tests.

What were your first impressions of St. Petersburg? 

My first impressions of Russia were the cold, because I came in winter, and I had the feeling that you are in a huge country. At first, resisting and getting used to the cold was not easy, and the most difficult thing in winter, at least in St. Petersburg, is the fact that you do not see the sun very often. 

I feel fortunate for having made the decision to come to study in this city, it is very European. Everything is amazing, the Neva River, the museums, the excellent public transport system. The city's architecture is enjoyable and designed in such a way that you can always find something wonderful when walking in any part of the city. 

As for my first impressions of the Russian people, I could compare them to the weather: in winter they are very serious, while in summer they smile more. But they are always willing to help you.

Jorge Medina. Photo courtesy of the subject
Jorge Medina. Photo courtesy of the subject

What do you like most about St. Petersburg?

I love this city, it is romantic, cultural, its architecture is special, and you can easily get lost in it and have the opportunity to find magical places. Museums are my favorite places here –  like the Hermitage, the Russian Museum, or Erarta. Since I like photography, this city is wonderful for taking pictures, every season of the year feels new.

What do you think about the Russian language? Do you find it difficult to learn?

As a Slavic language, Russian is very different from Spanish, and at first I understood only a few words. So it was almost impossible to communicate with other people during my first months here , but thanks to the preparatory course at ITMO now I can speak and understand it a lot easier.

What do you think of the university dormitory?

I would say that it is a nice place where you can meet other international students. Bathrooms and kitchens are shared. I currently live in a room for three people, and so far we have lived quietly without any problems.

Did you ever think of Russia as a place to acquire your Master’s degree? 

I have always been curious, I love to learn why and how things work, every time I have a computer in my hands I want to open it and find out what it's made of. I had not thought of Russia as a place for my Master’s, but that same curiosity brought me here. Now I think that it was the best option I could take, as both the quality of education  and my experience in Russia so far have been excellent.

What can you tell us about university life as an international student?

The life of an international student is very active, you always have the opportunity to meet new people, learn languages and cultures. ITMO has many extracurricular activities for students. For instance,   last month I went with a group of students to Moscow, and it was a great trip, full of culture and knowledge. You can also practice different types of sports, go to language clubs, and much more.

Jorge Medina. Photo courtesy of the subject
Jorge Medina. Photo courtesy of the subject

What are your hobbies?

My favorite hobby is photography. I love walking around the city and taking photos, not only of architecture but also of people’s lives here. I also attend the English speaking club and participate in ITMO.Family activities.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future are to finish my Master's degree and find work, it could be in Russia or elsewhere in the world. I am also very interested in doing a PhD, it would be a great opportunity to further develop my research.

I hope to learn a lot from ITMO. I expect very high quality courses. The teachers are always willing to help you, and the fellow students also have great skills. 

Any advice for other international students who want to come to Russia and do a Master's degree here?

I recommend studying the language, it is essential for a student  in Russia, and having an open mind to new opportunities. , You will never regret the decision to come to Russia and choose ITMO, and you will surely fall in love with the country and its culture as I did.

For future Master’s students, I recommend that you start looking for your research topic, be clear about what you would like to develop in your work, and delve into this chosen topic.

Interview by Juan Sebastian Velasquez Acevedo