Camp in Programming: Intense Problem-Solving

The annual summer Camp in Programming welcomes students from all over the world who get hands-on experience and theoretical knowledge in programming and machine learning. This year, the challenge was accepted by students from Luxemburg, USA, Azerbaijan, Venezuela, China, India, and Russia. We caught up with some of them to talk about their experience here. 

Het Dilipkumar Patel, Suraj Gehlot and Parekh Hardev are majoring in Computer Science at Parul University in India. From Venezuela, Allan Zea is in the process of transferring to a university in Berlin. Despite the cold and rainy weather, the students came in smiling brightly and feeling excited. 

Students from Parul University found out about the program through their international office. “We were given many options, since our university has a lot of exchange programs, but we were told that this is the best option for those in computer science.” 

Allan found out about the program online. He previously tried competitive programming which he really liked. He had heard about ITMO’s impressive reputation, and considered it to be a unique opportunity. He also wanted to visit Russia, so it all worked out. 

The participants of the program were surprised by its intensity. A good chunk of the program is actually practicing to solve programming sets and learn to solve problems. 

Students from India were worried that it would be very theory-centered since their own studies mostly consist of theoretical knowledge. But since they started their studies here, they have noticed that they have been programming non-stop. “You really have to do your part of the studies,” observes Suraj. Allan continues that he might not be able to solve every single problem set, but the things he has learned here will be indispensable in the future when he continues his studies and applies for jobs. 

Everyone agrees that the amount of studying they have been doing until now has been very intense and challenging. Allan notes, “I knew what I was getting myself into based on the program description, but when I came here it multiplied by three.” But instead of feeling discouraged, it has made them even more motivated to pursue their studies and become great specialists. “I chose Russia because I want to be a good engineer,” comments Parekh. 

Allan also remarks that the things they are studying now are similar to the tasks the companies assign them during the job interviews. Parekh agrees that this program will give them a great advantage when they start looking for employment. Therefore, the students believe that this program will really help them to achieve their career goals. 

The participants also note that the exams in Russia are the hardest exams they have ever taken. Parekh, Suraj and Het continue on by saying that the exams they are usually used to test them on things they have learned, but at ITMO University the level of the examination was above average, and thus a learning experience in itself. But despite the challenge of it, all of them did well on the exams. Parekh comments that it is for their own development therefore they accept and welcome the challenge. 

Since coming here, the students have noticed major differences in their everyday lives compared to their lives back at home. For all of them, it’s their first time in Russia, and students from India are abroad for the very first time. Their first three weeks in St. Petersburg were cold and rainy but it didn’t damper their experience. 

Allan notes that Venezuela doesn’t have different seasons and it’s always hot. Even on the day he left Germany it was 39 degrees but when he arrived in St. Petersburg, it was only 9 degrees: “The temperature dropped by 30 degrees!” 

Suraj enjoys the difference in lifestyle. Although he has to walk a lot more than he is used to, he notes that it is nice, and the weather is quite refreshing compared to India’s hot weather. 

The differences do not end there. The students have observed that Russians are very punctual and hard-working. Allan continues to reflect that Russian people seem to be always busy. 

“Although people in Germany are also very busy, there still seems to be a balance. But in Russia you really feel the pressure to do well, to succeed. This is a challenge for me because not a lot of countries have a habit of taking work back home.” 

Het finds the different time cycle challenging since time flows differently in India and there is a lot more light there than in Russia , Suraj on the contrary, finds it comforting since his sleeping schedule is very unstable. 

Parekh was worried that it would be difficult to find suitable food, since he is vegetarian. But he was worried for nothing because there are plenty of Indian restaurants around the city, and he started learning how to cook at home. 

Now that their stay here is almost over, Suraj and Allan are considering coming to ITMO University for postgraduate studies because they are impressed by the high level of education and the programs available. 

Written by Veroonika Remets

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