Several recommendations based on what I have experienced coming here. I sort of got too excited so I listed more than 5 points :)
- Take note of the weather conditions in St. Petersburg before flying in. Winter months are extremely cold (like -20 degrees cold) so better bring winter clothes like thick jackets, coats, boots, leg warmers, thick socks, scarf, gloves, and a hat. It's better to come prepared.
- Health is number one priority always. Make it a point to bring local over-the-counter medicine like paracetamol or anything you could lay your hands on. It would be difficult for international students who do not speak Russian to buy medicine for illnesses as simple as colds and fever in local stores. Do not forget to drink lots of water while you're here. Winter months could be dehydrating.
- If you plan on staying at the dormitory, you should know that there are strict schedules you should follow that concern ID collection, laundry, change of mattresses, pillows etc. Just ask us :)
- The moment you land at St. Petersburg, everything you read and see will be in Cyrillic. Learning a few Russian terms, even reading Cyrillic, comes a long way! Install a Russian-English dictionary in your mobile phones. Google translator, that application that does image processing and converts Cyrillic to English on the fly, will save you! Also, it would be nice to greet people in Russian :D
- Avoid bringing your country's currency to Russia. Majority of the currency exchange centers here only accept dollars and Euros.
- Get a mobile number as soon as you land in St. Petersburg. Make sure that it has mobile data, too. Having GPS is extremely important when you're navigating here.
- Grab a universal adaptor from your local hardware store. They have the round ones here so you might have difficulty charging some of your electronic devices.
- Do you know that most Russians use vk instead of facebook? Try creating an account! This could help you communicate with most of your classmates and potential friends.
The most important things students should do upon arrival to ITMO University:
- Get a dormitory
- Get the student card at ITMO U main building
- Start the multiple entry student visa procedure at ITMO U Migration Office
- Open a bank account at a Russian Bank suggested by ITMO U
- Buy some winter clothing if you arrive in autumn
My suggestions for future international students are:
Before starting at ITMO U:
- If you are not familiar with the Russian language, do some light studying before your arrival. At the very least, learn the Cyrillic alphabet and be able to read and pronounce words written in Russian as many words are borrowed from the English language, but appear different due to the alphabet.
- Make sure you have all the necessary documents from you home country, along with their notarized translations, organized and ready for processing once you arrive in Russia.
- Get an idea for the cost of living in Saint Petersburg and develop a budget. You can do this by visiting different online stores and comparing prices to those of your home country. You may find some things are cheaper here (food, transport), while others may be much more expensive (clothing, electronics). Be aware, however, that prices could change rapidly due to the volatility of the ruble.
- Start thinking about your interests and goals as a student and as a researcher. Additionally, if you are a master student, spend some quality time narrowing the list of research topics down to 2-3 and start reading some papers from these fields.
- Reach out to professors and/or fellow students if you have any questions. Don't be shy - we are a friendly bunch and are always willing to offer support and advice.
- Prepare for the Saint Petersburg winter seriously, especially if you are accustomed to a more temperate climate. This means you should invest in a proper winter coat, boots, hats, gloves, sweaters, etc.
Upon arrival at ITMO U:
- Understand that the time to process all your documents will be about a month. Consult with program administrators to make sure you process your documents in the correct order.
- Spend some quality time speaking with your scientific advisor. They will be able to guide you to a successful start as a researcher.
- Utilize all your student benefits, such as the discounted metro pass, entrance to museums, etc. Also, attend extracurricular events hosted by the university, such as guest lectures, departmental gatherings, etc.
- Get involved with additional projects, if you have the time. The university has many exciting international collaborations that are open to new students.
- Have fun! Explore the city (while the weather is still bearable...), meet local people, and take in the rich history of Saint Petersburg!
I suggest 5 things a foreign student should do before coming to ITMO University, Russia:
- Chest scan for TB with accompanying doc, HIV certificate and translations, translation of transcripts and certificates, medical checkup and translation, translations of your passport
- Carry cash for upkeep in USD or Euros
- Don’t forget originals and Visa applications
- Scan all copies and send to ITMO U administration
- Equip yourself with very warm clothes
Upon arrival to ITMO U:
Do not forget to take care of your Russian student extension, student ID, dorm registration and ID, insurance cover, transport card at metro station and later on a student metro card, bank account and card, registration at https://isu.ifmo.ru/.
Always carry immigration certificate with you in your passport!
Coming to Russian Federation was one of the step forward decisions in my life. Before I join eScience Research Institute, ITMO University in Saint Petersburg, the first thing I have done was trying to understand what the institution's research areas are and tune my research interest according to the institute's domain of experts such that I would not have a problem finding a supervisor.
All member of the institute are very friendly and humble. I have been enjoying the two way communication with my supervisor. The administrative staffs are also cooperative and never got tired of replying my emails before I came here. They were also with me while I was processing documents such as student ID, bank account and taxpaying certificate which show their determination to make the institute one of the top destinations of international students.
One of the challenges that I faced is adjusting my body to the weather. As I am from 13th months of sunshine country, Ethiopia, It was a little bit difficult to adopt dark days and not seeing sunlight for around six months, wearing big jackets and walking on slippery and snowy roads. However, nothing is impossible!!! I survived and able to share my experience with you!
Therefore, all incoming international students has to take the following things into account before they came here:
- Try to tune your research interest according to the researcher areas of the institute
- Try to learn few Russian words such that you can communicate with the community
- Understand that processing documents may take some time
- Bring warm clothes and shoes or you could buy here
- Don't worry about the food, the foods are good here
- Finally, Saint Petersburg is a nice city full of interesting things