And studying there cost 120,000–130,000 rubles a year, you know? That's a lot.
For me that was an incredible amount of money at the time. And it's not spare change even now. And my rebellion was at the university. I did everything except study.
At first I honestly tried to study, but then I realized that I was bad at it, because it was just not what I was meant to be doing.
I mean, I was like an engineer who understood how things happened on a superficial level, emotionally, but I couldn't count it all out mathematically, and that's like being an artist without hands.
[I was] an engineer who didn't know mathematical approaches; didn't know mathematical analysis; and couldn't describe phenomenon, solve complex equations, or think analytically. I mean, I could think analytically, but not that way.
Could you say you understood it intuitively?
Yeah, yeah, intuitively is a good word. I was your average C student. My relatives kept saying, and my dad's friends, my mom's friends, they said, "Finish school, and then everything will work out." Because, thanks to my family connections I would be sent to a good company, you know, get a prestigious position. I'd prove myself. Because for the oil industry in Russia ... to be a "good engineer" you don't really need to know the math, you just have to be kind of unscrupulous.
So what happened after the shock of finding out that your parents were paying? Did anything change? Did it lead you to any decisions?
It was a tipping point, yeah. In the third year, classes for my major started. Before the 3rd year, it sucked, just stuff nobody needed. And then the classes for my major began, and I just sort of ghosted though it.
I did a lot of stuff extracurricular stuff at the university, organizing scientific conferences, all that stuff, lectures. It was called SPE, the Society of Petroleum Engineers.
I lived in a dorm, too, which was a very good experience for me. That is, I mean, I was right in the thick of it. There was a lot of drinking, waking up in other people's dorms, or in a completely different dormitory at like the Journalism Department of Moscow State University; those guys drank like fishes.
Did anyone from your dorm influence you?
Probably not. I guess I did my own thing there, too. I mean, I've always marched to my own drummer. I've always been a loner.
So no one inspired you at all? Maybe even like a specific trait in someone that you liked and took for yourself?
I've always looked to people who ... There were some people, yeah, I remember. There were people. There were a couple of students from senior year. A Chechen. He moved abroad to work a long time ago. There were people who studied very well, and you could say they were enlightened.
I also had a friend named Petr in my grade. He's very cool. We don't talk much right now. We live in different cities. There was a certain point when I didn't talk to anyone at all at university. I was in the middle of a crisis.
I was always drawn to people who were better than me, because at an early age, my father told me, he had boxed in his youth and, at one point, he told me something very important: "When I boxed, I always fought guys who were better than me." It helped a lot in life, on the one hand. On the other hand, it was as if some sort of complex was triggered in the back of my head when my father told me that.
I learned something from them. I remember the way they talked, trying to imitate them, and I liked it. Like, learning new words for myself, a new manner of speech.
There was a girl there who was already a European citizen, Sweden, I think. It's been a long time.