Past week of my life was a very exciting experience (14 Aug.- 20 Aug. 2011), I along with my wife and colleague Arjumand went to St. Petersburg (Russia) for RuSSIR/EDBT summer school and International Conference centered around Information Retrieval (Computer Science). This was my first time ever to visit Russia and I was little confused about how it would be (as very little is known about Russia in Pakistan). Reaching there after long stretched hours of flight consumed me a lot in terms of energy. However, as soon I arrived I found my surroundings very normal and helpful as it was in South Korea, China and Malaysia (my previous experiences); everything looked usual and cooperative. Team of RuSSIR/EDBT arranged a nice hostel for the two of us which was in fact a studio apartment and better than where I had ever stayed previously during my short trips. Russian people could barely talk in English but were polite and helpful (thumbs up!).
On 15 Aug. we went to the school venue for our educational commitment through a bus followed by metro (simply subway or rail) and then a short walk to the campus of St. Petersburg State university. We faced little confusion in reaching our destination but managed to reach through words of passing by people. In the gathering, there were fine lectures for full five days as part of summer school and nice papers and posters during the conference. Our daily routine from 15-19 Aug. had a duration from 9:00 AM till 9:00 PM and every second of it paid off in terms of learning. In breaks we had chances to socialize with people hence forming future possible collaborative/cooperative connections. Suggestions and fine word of questions led us to have a feedback which could not be possible to generate within a week (usually). During the gathering, we witnessed people from social sciences taking keen interest in aspects of social networks which shows how aware they were about fields getting merged. A guy from industry, Yandex (similar to Google in Russia) came to me after reading my research paper for interacting and this shows how practical and serious things were there. Similar meaningful was my interaction with guy from mail.ru (another giant in Russian industry). All in all it was a very nice experience and I feel like typing in something for it as a token of appreciation.
I close my post by saying thanks to the team of RuSSIR/EDBT for organzing such an event and I also want to thank to the participants who put further five stars to the gathering.
As a note for Pakistani people who know a very little about Russia: it is a nice place with nice people and very open place for knowledge cooperation and collaborations, do consider it as a meaningful option for academics and industry. Further, feel free to write back to me.
RuSSIR/EDBT 2011 link: http://romip.ru/edbt-russir2011/