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Student Earns First Double Degree from UTB and Russian University
 
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – MAY 30, 2013 – Liudmila “Mila” Svetlova, an international graduate student at The University of Texas At Brownsville, is breaking ground on a new double degree program between UTB and the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia.
 
Liudmila Mila Svetlova
Liudmila “Mila” Svetlova
Svetlova just received her Master of Science in computer science from UTB at Spring Commencement on Friday, May 10, and has returned home to receive her second master’s degree in applied mathematics from HSE.
 
“It has been a challenge to accommodate all the requirements for both of these degrees,” Svetlova said before departing Brownsville. “I have successfully defended my thesis here at UTB, and now I must defend it again at my home university.”
 
Designed by the UTB Office of Global Engagement and its counterpart at HSE, the double degree program allows Russian students to complete their second year of graduate studies at UTB. Articulation agreements between the two universities enable transferring of credits to satisfy both schools and both degrees.
 
Svetlova arrived in Brownsville in August 2012, and for the next two semesters, she carried a class overload in order to graduate on schedule. In conjunction with her studies, she was a teaching and research assistant in computer science for Dr. Juan Iglesias, Associate Professor of Computer and Information Sciences.
 
“I am following the family trend by studying computer science,” Svetlova said. “My mother works in information technology at a bank in Moscow, my father is a software designer, and my brother is director of information technology at a medical center in Moscow.”
 
Svetlova’s mother, a mechanical engineer, worked for a number of years in Russian aerospace mission control in Karolev City, where the family lives. The most famous resident of “Space City” was Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human to enter outer space in April 1961.
 
Many of Karolev’s residents work or attend universities in Moscow, as is the case with the Svetlova family.
 
“Commuting to Moscow is terrible,” Svetlova said. “I spent four years in undergraduate school commuting four hours a day – two in and two out. You can imagine how wonderful it has been here at UTB, living in Casa Bella and walking to classes. Even though I was working very hard on my program, it still felt like I was having a year-round vacation. I like the relaxed atmosphere here, everybody is always in a good mood, and I must say everyone was very warm and welcoming to me.”
 
Although her time has been short, Svetlova managed to do some traveling while in Brownsville, including trips to Austin and San Antonio.
 
“The Office of Global Engagement was super helpful, and they even organized bus trips for the international students to help us see some of Texas,” she said. “We held raffles and car washes, and the cost was very reasonable. The international student group was lots of fun, and I especially made friends with students from Austria and France, and we were hanging out together a lot.”
 
This was not Svetlova’s first trip to the United States. A couple of years, ago she and a friend attended an English language school in Los Angeles where they lived with a family. Also, she has stopped off and stayed with friends in New York City, and spent the Christmas break with friends in Chicago.
 
Under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension of her student F1 visa, Svetlova will return to Brownville in July to begin a campus job in the Computer and Information Sciences Department.
 
“This is a wonderful way to get experience,” Svetlova said. “I know I can find a job back home without any problem, but I want to give this a try, and after this, everything depends on where I find the best opportunity for myself.”
 
Graduates are permitted OPT for one year, and graduates in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields can extend their OPT to 17 months.
 
“I am at that time of my life when I want to do everything by myself and try to prove I can do it,” Svetlova said. “I have a feeling that this is a good country to give things a try – that if you want something, you can get it here if you put forth the effort.”

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