Norihiko Nakano is a 37-year-old student from Japan who wanted to study the construction of smart city abroad by the time he turns 40. This year he successfully graduated the St Petersburg University’s preparatory course and made his wish come true by entering the master’s programme ‘Smart City Management (MSC)’ at the Graduate School of Management of the University. We asked him a couple of questions about his experience, choice of university, and tips for other students.

photo landscape orientation

  1. When and why did you decide to start learning the Russian language?

When I was looking for a university, I thought about foreign languages. Because I’m Japanese, I wanted to study language which is spoken in a neighbouring country. When I had communicated with several foreigners, my Russian friend, who was student at St Petersburg University, was the kindest and I decided study the Russian language. I thought this choice was good because in Japan Russian speakers are very rare although the Russian language is an international language.

  1. Were you satisfied with your choice of university?

I am satisfied with my university very much. Firstly, of course, I was worried about my life in Russia, but a lot of people in St Petersburg University have helped me. For example, the International Admissions Office has always replied to my questions by email. I guess my first question to them was ‘How to apply for the preparatory course at St Petersburg University?’. When I postponed my visa, staff of the International Academic Cooperation Department helped me. In my St Petersburg life, my professor of the preparatory course and friends from Serbia helped me. Secondly, I believe the Russian language will help my career well. Russia and the Russian language will be more important in the world. I have often seen the news about Russia in Japan. Thirdly, according to THE rankings St Petersburg University is one of the best universities in the world compared with Japanese universities. St Petersburg University has many faculties and many students from various countries. You can meet various people and it may help you in your career.

  1. Your year as a preparatory course student was a COVID-19 year. Please tell us a few words about your time. Did the pandemic affect you or your personal productivity?

Of course, this pandemic affected my personal productivity, especially my motivation. But fortunately, I could study at St Petersburg for half a year although many students in the world, including Japan, still had lessons remote. For this reason, I think a Russian university was the right choice.

  1. How important do you think is the preparatory course for foreign students?

If you don’t have a certification of TORFL-1, I highly recommend the preparatory course for foreign students. This level of Russian language is very important for living in Russia. And if you have it, you can be confident in your skills. I know several Chinese students who have started to study the Russian language from elementary level on the preparatory course and passed TORFL-1 when they graduated it.

  1. Is there a difference between the teaching methods in Japan and Russia?

There were many differences of them in the preparatory course. For example, I had homework of the Russian language every day. It was very useful for improving my Russian. And I had lessons of social studies. In these lessons I gave presentations about my country. It was very interesting. Lessons in Japan are basically passive, like just listening to lectures all the time.

  1. What did you find the most interesting or memorable during your academic year?

The most interesting thing was active students from various countries because Japanese students are mostly introverts. The most memorable thing was meeting friends in the preparatory course face-to-face in the halls of residence at St Petersburg University.

  1. What are your goals, and what kind of plans do you have now?

Now I study the master’s programme ‘Smart City Management (MSC)’ at the Graduate School of Management (GSOM). If it’s allowed, I hope to work on the construction of smart city in Russia with my friends after graduation and continue to study at GSOM’s MBA programme. I believe this study will contribute to my work in Russia.

  1. Do you have any tips on studying the Russian language?

I have advice for beginner students from Asia. Please remember that students from Eastern Europe have an advantage in studying the Russian language because their native languages are similar to the Russian language. Your friends from Eastern Europe may improve their Russian faster than you. But don’t worry about it. It’s normal. Please study at your own pace!