A Russian-born mother has come a long way since settling in Australia in 2004, graduating recently with near-perfect results from the University of the Sunshine Coast.
Larisa Nikolaevna Chudina worked in post-Communist Russia as an accountant, but a passion for health led her to complete a Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Graduate Entry) at USC.
She achieved a Grade Point Average of 6.81 from a possible 7, earning her a University Medal for high academic performance.
“Growing up, I was told to always try to do my best and whatever comes out, that’s good enough,” Larisa said.
“It’s hard to digest still, that I’ve made it and I managed to do quite well.”
She juggled her study with raising her son Alex, now 12, with working in careers in massage and health, domestic cleaning and for her husband’s painting business. She also got married two months before graduation.
“Our home environment was very much like in the army, very structured and time management was important,” said Larisa.
“The weekends were all about preparing for the next week or putting an assignment together and looking for things for my son to do. It’s only now that we get time to do things together as a family.”
Larisa hopes to use her Biomedical Science degree to contribute to the discovery of new means of health improvement and make a positive difference in people’s lives, but first she might return to university to complete a Masters program.
“I started in 2014 studying Nutrition, after completing the Tertiary Preparation Pathway course, but the following year I spent time in Russia with my mother who wasn’t well,” she said.
“Those six months allowed me to stop and think about my direction, and I realised I loved learning about physiology and how research is conducted so, when I returned, I transferred my program.”
Her special research project was on a novel tumour-killing peptide derived from the Australian tree frog.
“I have always been drawn to science but at the time in Russia in the post-Communist regime, it wasn’t practical and I had to support myself so I studied accounting and auditing,” she said.
She came to Australia in 2004, had her son in 2006 and joined a community centre for migrants, working there until 2011. When she became a single mum it was a massage course that reignited her passion for health.