MathiasSM
Computer Science Student

IOI - Russia

Originally written . Last updated on

Out of lots of luck and training, I got to compete in the International Olympiads in Informatics. Now my goal is to train younger students to represent Venezuela in this great event!

The International Olympiad in Informatics

The IOI is an old competition like the ACM-ICPC, but targeted at younger students, just as the IMO, IChO, and other famous science olympiads. Each country is allowed to send 4 students to compete; in our case, only two of us (Satoru and I) got to go, due to Venezuela’s economic problems.

A week to meet the world

A great thing about the IOI is that we get to know other people from all around the world. The organizers also work hard so that we get to experience the local culture while sharing interesting conversations with people from other countries.

Two weeks of fighting

Unlike many other styles in Coding Competitions, the IOI divides its main event in two days, separated by a break day so that we don’t burn out. I think it might be to put more problems in there, to let participants know how they’re doing (and maybe plan on the next day’s strategy), or just so that we can enjoy the trip to the fullest, not rushing all the time.

The format is the following: Two days, each with its own set of 3 problems, 5 hours each day to solve them. 3 problems for 5 hours seems like so little, but the IOI-style makes it so that each problem requires often 2 or more implementations to get all points (100 total), as multiple sets or requirements are presented.

Training for IOI-style competitions requires a deep understanding of algorithm complexity and lots of practice on different approaches for the same problems.

The results

They can be summed up in the following:

I want to train on this, even if I can’t compete anymore, because it’s a really powerful skill. If I can train younger guys so that they become better at it and can win some medals for Venezuela, then I’d be extra-accomplished.

That Big Country on the Map (That’s not China)

Cold weather, cold people? Neither

It’s was so hot I thought it was the wrong country. Russia may be cold in winter, but all Hollywood movies make us think it’s a cold country, all year long. It’s not. Summer was hot. Really hot. It never rained while we were there, but it wasn’t a dry weather, which wasn’t nice.

On the cold subject, about people, they all seemed opposite to the cold bastards we are made to think of them. They don’t speak with a rough accent, either; in fact, I was shocked to see how soft the Russian I heard was and how much I now like the language (I want to learn it someday).

Politics and the state

Truth is, at least among young Russians, Putin is made fun of like any other regular president in the world. That doesn’t mean they hate him, nor that they love it; it just means they’re critical, and that no one is truly censored at a “just chatting” scale on political issues, like all movies seem to agree on.

As a fun fact, we were detained by the police while on an Uber taxi. The guy did not stop at a stop sign, and patrols were waiting for that to happen. The officer did not speak a thing of English (Or Spanish, for that matter). But while it was annoying to stay there and being “processed” for not carrying passports (I did have mine), using Google Translate to communicate, we only got a traffic ticket at the end. The officer followed all the rules and protocols, which is something I don’t see a lot in my home country (or Hollywood movies).

Homelike cuisine

I wasn’t expecting a magnificent cuisine. But I was expecting a rather different cuisine from the western world. It was actually pretty similar. It even had many dishes that are eaten here in Venezuela, like the “arroz con leche”, which literally means “rice with milk” and it’s a common dessert here, exists there as…. eh… some Russian name that does not mean literally “rice with milk”.

I also got to eat the salad known here as just “Russian salad”, which is, actually, from Russia (Who would have known?) and it was really good. The thing is, while their food is not particularly tasty. It is all quite homelike, and as that, it was really nice. They don’t drink anything cold, though, and that’s something I couldn’t get used to.

Mathias San Miguel © 2013-2019